Kingdom, The

Director: Lars Von Trier

Denmark-Netherlands-Sweden-France-Norway-Germany| 1994. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo SR. 280 minutes.

Influenced by the French TV series Belphegor and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, von Trier hit upon the idea of setting his own TV ghost story in a place that frightened him-a hospital. The giant Rigshospital in Copenhagen was rich in a kind of morbid folklore: grotesque urban legends about diabolical goings-on between doctors and patients that had long circulated, and upon which von Trier claims he based the series. The plot, in classic mini-series, soap-opera fashion, has several strands that are played out simultaneously. Intrigues between doctors, patients and staff in this microcosm of society are banal as well as mystical, comic as well as grotesque. An eccentric cast of characters and a story littered with absurd digressions and red herrings is spun around the main plot twist: a little girl called Mary who had been brutally murdered by a doctor over half a century earlier and who now haunts the subterranean reaches of the hospital. The successful mix of drama, black humour and genuine spookiness was widely hailed as a unique achievement. For von Trier, the series might be described as one long escape act. First and foremost he was attempting to escape from himself, from the perfectionist, workaholic, control-freak Lars von Trier of The Element of Crime and Europa. He needed to get away from that kind of filmmaking.

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