Take a Drink: whenever Helmer is an overdramatic ass
Take a Drink: for Von Trierian philosophizing
Take a Drink: every time you see Helmer’s car
Take a Drink: for the lodge
Take a Drink: for green-eyed observation
Take a Drink: for coffee
Take a Drink: for ambulances
Take a Drink: “every problem has its solution”
Take a Drink: for rear projection and double exposure
Take a Drink: for every beer Bulder does
Do a Shot: Danish Scum!
Do a Shot: for “Little Brother”
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Recently it was announced that Danish auteur and professional provocateur Lars Von Trier’s next project is a massive TV series, The House That Jack Built, which is apparently “something that you have never seen before and you will definitely never see again.” This is undoubtedly highly intriguing news, but as some of you may know, he’s already done TV… and it’s exactly as bugfuck as you hope/expect (hexpect?… hey, that kinda fits!)
The Kingdom tells the tale of Denmark’s Kingdom Hospital, where dark forces are gathering around the unwitting and rather bizarre staff members and patients that call it home.
The most succinct way I can describe The Kingdom is Scrubs meets Twin Peaks. The latter, of course, brings the horror and the crazy, but against all expectation, The Kingdom is actually closer to the former. I mean, Dr. Helmer (Ernst-Hugo Jaregard) would be Dr. Bob Kelso, there’s almost no difference between Dr. Hook and Dr. Cox, and J.D. would have to be that dumbass prankster with the head, right?
That’s so J.D.!
Okay, in all (okay… some) seriousness The Kingdom really is a comedically-inclined hospital ensemble drama first and a supernatural horror piece second. This is also why it’s so damned good- characters are the focus, and their drama is relatable even when the circumstances of it (voodoo drugs, ghosts, missing heads, ambulance death racing, illicit transplants, birthing Udo Kier’s fucking man-baby)…
Speaking of Udo Kier’s “Little Brother”, he represents the apex of the skin-crawling, David Cronenberg-style body horror that is the best feather in the cap of The Kingdom’s attempts at horror. The other effective gambits are more creepy or just entertainingly bizarre, like the two diswashers with Down’s Syndrome that serve as a kind of Greek Chorus, delivering a very Lars Von Trierian running commentary on the events of the series. The fact that Kier and Birgitte Raaberg, playing his mother, are able to make his freakish man-baby affecting and sympathetic by the end shows The Kingdom’s only interested in horror as a spice, and not the main dish.
Extremely surprising for a Von Trier joint, that main dish seems to be comedy. The Kingdom is frequently hilarious, from Jaregard’s inspired turn as the loathsome but extremely entertainingly so Swedish surgeon Dr. Helmer, to out of nowhere scatological jokes and near-slapstick to the 100% Cacao dark humor you’d expect in this setting. At one point an inspector comes and despite the best efforts of the blissfully ignorant and earnest Dr. Moesgaard, he finds an exorcism, an illegal operation, a nurse screwing a patient, and an abortion happening all at once. My absolute favorite comic touch, though, is how a very young Von Trier himself appears over the credits to deliver a winkingly pretentious monologue and sign-off.
You fuckin’ goofball.
The Kingdom comes right before Von Trier’s anti-style Dogme 95 phase, but is far uglier than anything he produced doing it. Everything is shot in cheap digital, boxy aspect ratio 90s TV style, and the sepiatone filter he uses, while it grows on you, can’t hide all of its ugliness. Also, it features not one, but two intros, one creepily effective and better-shot than anything in the series itself, and the other almost (but I think not) a parody of the worst MTV generation intros money could buy, complete with the dumbest theme song I’m not actively blocking my memory of.
The worst part about The Kingdom, though, is that there’s not more of it. Season 2 ended in a cliffhanger, and… they just never made more of it. Now that three members of the cast have secondly passed away, including the incomparable Jaregard, there likely never will.
Even truncated, though, The Kingdom is a sometimes creepy, often hilarious, and always entertainingly insane ride through the mind of one of cinema’s most unique personalities.