Sunday, June 26, 2011

885. Riget/The Kingdom (1994)

Running Time: 280 minutes
Directed By: Morten Arnfred, Lars von Trier
Written By: Tomas Gislason, Lars von Trier, Niels Vorsel
Main Cast: Ernst-Hugo Jaregard, Kirsten Rolffes, Holger Juul Hansen, Soren Pilmark, Birgitte Raaberg


Ah Saturday's! A day to ease down into bed with your wife and find a nice long movie to keep the two of you occupied. And today, that's just what we did, as we set our sights on the four part Danish mini-series, "The Kingdom"...the one and only mini-series in the pages of the "1001" book.

Bear with me as I try to write a movie review for what is basically a four episode television show.

"The Kingdom" begins each episode with a tale about how the hospital, located in Copenhagen, Denmark was built on the site of ancient bleaching ponds. Following that we get a standard, musical television opening, complete with photos of the cast and we're underway. The Kingdom is, of course, the name of the hospital and while it houses many characters, both patients and staff alike, the main one is Dr. Stig Helmer (Jaregard). Stig is a Swede who was ostracized from practicing medicine in his home country when it was found out that he plagarized some medical articles. Wanting to continue his practice, he relocates to Denmark and The Kingdom. Stig is a real "crab" if there ever was one, a man who removes the hubcaps from his car each morning before he enters his workplace, so that the local hoodlums can't swipe them. Stig is the chief neurosurgeon on his wing and spends the duration of the series feuding with Krogshoj Hook (Pilmark), someone he gets off on the wrong foot with and never does get along with. Stig has recently botched an operation, where a mistake on his part turned a small child, Mona, into a drooling vegetable. Meanwhile, Mrs. Drusse (Rolffes) is an accused "malinger" who fakes illness in order to gain access to the hospital, so that she can investigate the spirits that she believes haunt The Kingdom. Her son, Bulder, works there as an orderly and despite his better judgment, remains loyal to his mother. Mrs. Drusse spends the duration of the series chasing down Mary Jensen, a ghost that will not crossover to the other side and holds a dark secret as to the mystery surrounding her own death.

Other story lines that continue throughout the series involve Dr. Bondo and the drastic measures he'll take to secure a very large hepatoma from a dying man's liver, an ambulance that calls into the hospital every night announcing it's arrival then always disappearing and young medical student Mogge and his infatuation with the nurse who presides over the sleep research lab.

Despite not seeing a lot of his films, I've always been very curious of the work of Lars von Trier. I'll admit that the curiosity reached a peek last year when I saw "Antichrist" and was left scratching my head for days after. While von Trier's films aren't always the most straight forward tales, they have almost always left me feeling intrigued. "Dogville" is a film that I wish had been included in the pages of the "1001" book, as it's the best von Trier film I've seen to date. Now that I've written a few sentences about Lars himself, lets jump into the film, "The Kingdom".

In a sentence - I liked it a lot. While it certainly wasn't the scariest thing I've seen (not by a mile), it held an aura of creepiness about it and the fact that it was set in a hospital (buildings that we normally associate with bad feelings) only serves to add to the strangeness of the series. We have a wide range of characters to keep us busy for the 4+ hours and a over a half dozen different story lines to keep "The Kingdom" from ever getting dull. While we're dealing with the supernatural for a lot of the film, the series also blends in a dash of murder mystery, as we follow the vibrant Mrs. Drusse around the halls of "The Kingdom", gathering clues and putting together pieces to move the story along. I loved the grainy and rust colored lens that we were forced to peer through as well, as it only added to keep us on edge.

I think my biggest problems regarding "The Kingdom" came during the final part. If I'm forced to judge this part, and this part alone, as a film from the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book, then I must be honest and say that the ending had some trouble. For those who don't know, three years later Lars von Trier would produce "The Kingdom II", a sequel to the original that apparently picks up right where this one left off. The ending of this "Kingdom" was left with a major cliffhanger and thus the end result was me not being satisfied with the final product, that was later stuffed into the pages of my current "1001" text. I also felt that after the first three parts delivered ten fold in keeping me totally captivated, the final part just didn't have enough of a payoff. I expected more in terms of twists and turns in the plot. There was also a comedy bit that came very close to the end of the film, where the hospital director walks around with his superiors to show them the progress that the Kingdom has made, only to find mishap after mishap around every corner. To me, this wasn't the place for a comedy bit (especially during the finale) and it only served to remove me from the story and totally kill the suspense that had been building inside me.

RATING: 7.5/10 I liked it, I just had problems with certain things (mostly the final part). I'll definitely be checking out "The Kingdom II" though.


June 26, 2011 12:16am


  1. An apology - this is not a reply to 'Kingdom' I have yet to see it, it is not available for hire or watch on line - just buy- and far to expensive yet. I look forward to doing so.
    No, this is just to say thanks for giving 'Dogville' a mention. I loved that one, and have yet to meet anyone else who has even seen it. I gather it did not do down well in the USA where, I hear, it was widely seen as 'Anti-American'.
    And what a way to remind the world that Lauren Bacall is still with us. Gosh. Humph died soon after I was born, but Betty is still makinf films.. is that making me feel old.. or young??

  2. Sure thing Ray. I LOVED "Dogville" and am not really sure if it was perceived as Anti-American or not, but I could certainly see how those assumptions could be made. Ah well, it's still one hell of a film and I REALLY need to get around to seeing "Manderlay".


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