The Kingdom aka Riget – TV series, Denmark, 1994

The Kingdom – Danish title: Riget – is an eight-episode Danish television mini-series, created by Lars von Trier in 1994, and co-directed by Lars von Trier and Morten Arnfred. It has been edited together into a five-hour movie for distribution in the United Kingdom and United States.

The series is set in the neurosurgical ward of Copenhagen’s Rigshospitalet, the city and country’s main hospital, nicknamed “Riget”. “Riget” means “the realm” or “the kingdom” and leads one to think of “dødsriget”, the realm of the dead. The show follows a number of characters, both staff and patients, as they encounter bizarre phenomena, both human and supernatural. The show is notable for its wry humor, its muted sepia colour scheme, and the appearance of a chorus of dishwashers with Down Syndrome who discuss in intimate detail the strange occurrences in the hospital.

The first quartet of episodes ended with numerous questions unanswered, and in 1997, the cast reassembled to produce another group of four episodes, Riget II (The Kingdom II).

“A TV series that is often described as a mix of ER and Twin Peaks filmed in Dogme ’95 style. But while the ER-style gripping hospital drama and the Twin Peaks-like quirky characters and strange, spooky events keep the viewer fascinated, it is the humor and dense sub-plotting that are the clinchers. Highlights are the constant hilarious clashes between a formal Swede and some Danish frivolity, the spiritual sleuthing of an old woman who tries to help the ghosts of the hospital while the administration tries to stand firmly with its belief in science, students play with body parts, doctors initiate each other with a surgical blade, a doctor that collects blackmail and discarded material in the cellar…” Zev Toledano, The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre 

An unwell Udo Kier

“Where does one start in evaluating a film that manages to include within its storyline a modern-day hospital, a murder mystery from almost a century before, doctors who act like Masons, medical malpractice, a phantom ambulance, horror, black comedy, voodoo, séances, exorcism, and even a little sex? It’s like one-stop shopping; there’s something for everyone. The Kingdom will evince strong reactions from virtually every viewer, but I suspect that the vast majority of them will be positive.” Barrie Maxwell, DVD Verdict

Release:

The Kingdom is available on DVD in the United States from Koch-Lorber Films and on Madman Entertainment’s Directors Suite label in Australia and New Zealand.

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