There is so much to discuss in BTW that I'm not sure where to begin. I'll probably ramble a bit. Pick your nit to discuss.
Bess is one of a series of female Christ figures in von Trier films. They are a varied lot: wrongly accused (Selma in Dancer in the Dark, self-emptying (Karen in The Idiots), despised and rejected -- and vengeful (Grace in Dogville). Bess is such a pleasure to encounter, totally loving, committed, will to sacrifice herself. She is the one "who becomes sin who knew no sin."
I fell in love with Bess. Her dirty talking phone call to Jan on the oil rig would have had me jumping into the North Sea and swimming.
I was fascinated with her conversations with God. And I understood them as such, not as some superego within her speaking to herself. And her understanding after a time of silence when God says to her (on her way to the evil ship) "I have always been with you."
This is a superb example of substituionary atonement. (And keep in mind that I don't view atonement in that way.) It is through her stripes that Jan is healed. She is humiliated, degradated, treated as dung. She goes willingly, knowing what is ahead of her.
The church in BTW: This is a bit problematic, but even with its problem it is a challenging picture. This dour Calvinist church is joyless. It serves as the role of Pharisees in the Gospels. When Jan and Bess marry, one of Jan's oil rig friends is waiting for the bells to ring, and is informed that there are no bells at this church. What an awful indictment of what some churches have become!
I'm a bit surprised that this came in at #50 on the list, since the criterion for votings was Definitely belongs, probably belongs, etc. I cannot not fathom why someone would say it doesn't belong, and think that even "probably belongs" may be dissing the film.