The Kingdom: I and II DVD
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Directed by Lars von Trier, Morton Arnfred
Produced in 1996
Main Language - Danish with English subtitles
Countries & Regions - Scandinavian Film
Ernst-Hugo Jaregard, Kirsten Rolffes
A box set with both parts of von Trier's strange, funny and persistently creepy, hospital-set drama. It tramples convention into the ground from the opening credits, says Michael Brooke.
Sharp-eyed viewers of recent BBC4 hit The Killing might have spotted a credit for Morton Arnfred as one of its directors. A decade earlier, he was co-creator with the more headline-grabbing Lars von Trier of the only other Danish television series to garner a British cult following – but aside from that and coincidentally alliterative English titles, they couldn’t be more different.
While The Killing was an expertly-staged but ultimately familiar police procedural, The Kingdom tramples convention into the ground from each episode’s opening credits, which segue from sepia-tinted imitation Tarkovsky to something more like Police, Camera, Action!.
We’re tipped off from the start that the large and notionally ultra-modern hospital known as the Kingdom may be haunted, but running alongside sightings of ghostly children and glowing-eyed devil-dogs is a hilarious satire of medical bureaucracy that could have been lifted straight out of one of the earlier, more politicised Casualty episodes. These scenes are dominated by the irascible Swedish neurosurgeon Dr Stig Helmer (Ernst-Hugo Järegård), one of television’s great comic monsters, who lets off steam by going up to the roof to scream abuse about Denmark’s shortcomings, or to have heart-to-heart conversations with the toilet bowl. His infuriatingly passive boss Dr Moesgaard presides over a team that includes Helmer’s hated rival Dr Krogshøj, Dr Bondo, whose obsession with a rare form of tumour extends to him voluntarily transplanting one into his own body, and Dr Petersen, whose pregnancy makes the one in Rosemary’s Baby seem textbook.
Meanwhile, elderly spiritualist Mrs Drusse is conducting deeply unofficial investigations into the more mysterious goings-on, naturally causing more problems than she solves – anything that involves cameo appearances by Udo Kier can only end badly. Only two series were made, and with five cast members now dead (including the irreplaceable Järegård and Rolffes), the planned final series now looks unfilmable. But this sumptuous four-disc set contains the full works, as originally broadcast (i.e. longer episodes and with the von Trier monologues omitted from earlier releases) plus plenty of extras.
Michael Brooke on 24th May 2011
Author of 145 reviews
Within the walls and labyrinthine corridors of an ultra-modern Danish hospital known as The Kingdom, otherworldly events are unfolding. The tormented ghost of a young girl haunts the elevator, a phantom ambulance appears each evening and the eccentric staff are preoccupied with secret societies, malpractice cases, and a pregnancy that has taken a frighteningly bizarre turn. Amidst the unfolding drama spirits and demons have awakened.
Lars Von Trier's acclaimed series quickly achieved cult status and its reputation continues to grow. The Kingdom series 1 and 2 are presented here in their original, full-length broadcast format complete with the monologues from Lars von Trier introducing each episode.
Publisher: Second Sight
Length: 573 mins
Aspect ratio: 4:3
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 4th July 2011
Cat No: 2NDVD3201
- 4 discs
- Tranceformer: A portrait of Lars Von Trier
- In Lars Von Trier's Kingdom
- Behind the scenes
- TV commercials directed by Lars Von Trier
- Selected scene commentaries.