This seminal TV show by renowned Danish Director Lars Von Trier has finally been released in its entirety this month, giving UK residence a chance to once again delight in its maddeningly Twin Peaks surrealist style, set against a backdrop of horrific nineties soap opera conventions.
The Kingdom takes place within the walls of a Copenhagen hospital where there appears to be a little more than just the curing of the infirm taking place. Amongst the feuding doctors and nurses across the wards there appears to be something unusual occurring throughout this establishment of scientific rationalism and medical enlightenment. Paranormal activities are ripe within Kingdom Hospital, from the ghost of a child in the elevator to the haunting recurrence of a driverless ambulance, these ghostly apparitions point to something other worldly within this otherwise rigid and professional establishment.
Despite the continued supernatural occurrences there remain many staunch unbelievers, including most notably Dr Helmer, a Swedish neurosurgeon whose super-intolerance to Danes has created a palpable level of rivalry throughout the infirmary. He spends most of the film attempting to cover up a case of gross malpractice whilst simultaneously being ingratiated into the hospital’s secretive professional cult, a collective which is strikingly reminiscent of the dark underbelly which was ever present in David Lynch’s profane, yet incredibly enjoyable aforementioned series.
Whilst not losing any of its charm or subtle horror The Kingdom has somewhat aged over the last ten years. The orange sepia tone used to film these two seasons, when played through a high definition television feels like wading through old washed out photos. A gimmick which may have amplified the fear when first released unfortunately just seems strikingly cheap and tacky when intermixed with the show’s satirical take on the poorly conceived and badly acted styles of the Americanised dramatic productions of the nineties it aims to parody.
Fans of cult television will no doubt rejoice in being able to re-view this dense and surreal reworking of the hospital drama template and for good reason. Behind the murky cinematography lies a wonderful collection of eerie stories which suits this extended format and acts as an insightful window into the early career of one of cinemas most controversial yet, artistically talented directors of our modern age.