Lars Von Trier is often accused of being a misogynist, because of the excessive abuses that he puts his female characters through. Certainly the abuses in Nymphomania, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville, this film and especially Antichrist are varied and of the deepest horror, and one might question the imagination of a man who creates such violence to such lovely women.
Breaking the Waves takes place in an extremely patriarchal society, in which only men are given a voice in the community, women are expected to be submissive and obey what the men order or else they are exiled from the community. The film takes Bess, the dearest and gentlest of souls, and shows how patriarchy, just by being patriarchy, destroys her bit by bit. She has the most loving husband and a sister in law who does everything they can to help her, but even with this kind of support, they cannot stop the voice of patriarchy in her head, which she considers to be the voice of God.
This is a terrible, but important film to witness.