Studio: Second Sight
Length: 573 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 4 July 2011
Cat No: 2NDVD3201
Screen ratio 1:1.33
Dolby Digital 2.0
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The Kingdom: I and II
All eight episodes of Lars von Trier’s wryly comic, and sometimes horrific, fantasy mini-series set in the neurosurgical ward of... Read More
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.