Movie Magazine International

The Kingdom II

Denmark/Sweden - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

The Kingdom is a hospital built on a marsh, and occupied by doctors, patients, and ghostly shadows of the past. "Kingdom part II" is a Danish television show about life in that metropolitan hospital. Part soap-opera and part damnation of the human condition, "Kingdom II" is four episodes from the second series of that show and don't worry about the narrative structure of the preceding episodes. You'll pick up the plot as you go along following the quirky, sometimes fatal, behavior that the denizens of this film engage in with psychotic abandon.

In nominal charge of this medical miasma is a barely tolerated Swede, played with loopy determination by Ernst-Hugo Jaregard, whose shortcomings in mental health should be more help than hindrance. If only he hadn't dabbled so ineptly in voodoo. His staff members are devotees of snuff films. Patients insist on allowing their tumors to grow unmolested. The hospital harbors a semi-secret society with rituals that include tests of nerve involving citrus fruits and swords. And then there's the problem with both Satan worship and crushing paperwork.

Meanwhile, in the basement, a pair of down's syndrome dishwashers comment on life with unusual prescience. As one observes, "Everything is decaying, nobody notices."

Lars Von Trier, the man who brought us "Breaking the Waves," has fashioned a ominously surreal vision, comic and ghastly at the same time, where the metaphysical and the profane exist side by side and not necessarily at odds with each other, whereas science and superstition are mortal enemies. It's a cross between Chicago Hope and Twin Peaks. There's even a running joke in which coffee figures prominently and a detour into the spirit realm. The tone is low key and dead pan, but the camera work, with its edgy, hand-held look and quick cutaways, make for a universe in which vertigo is the norm.

Yet, in this hellhole of a metaphor on life, everything means something. Even the tiniest action, seemingly innocuous, has consequences of great import. What's it all mean? We return to the dishwashers in the basement, the resident philosophers of "The Kingdom." They sum it up best. Everything not only means something, it's also silly. And in that silliness, there's a whole passel of evil.

© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 5/27/98

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