Published on November 21st, 2005 | by Greg0
The Kingdom Come!
It’s hard to define what’s truly addictive about this Danish series by Lars Von Trier. It should have so many things against it to an American audience: bad soap opera lighting, odd special effects, almost no cute actors, and some just downright creepiness. But somehow I went from hating to loving this hospital drama in a matter of episodes.
The series, out on TV in the 90’s, exists on two layers. One is the supernatural story filled with ghosts, satanists, zombies, and weird half-humans of evil and good. The other layer is the very realistic TV hospital drama in the mold of ER. However, while the American equivalent stresses the science and the situations, the commentary on our society and the job these workers have to do on a daily basis, The Kingdom is fundamentally about the characters. What often lacks in some films is a genuine personality, but in this series there is nothing but. Every person is as nuanced and interesting, as full as can be. I even like the characters I hate and how their own flaws comically and charmingly come back to bite them in each episode. I genuinely care what happens to each character in the series (even though they’re not even cute!)
As for the supernatural elements of the story, they never really offer much scare, but instead an evolving mystery to be solved. Narrated by a Down Syndrome dishwasher in riddles. Mrs. Drusse a “spiritualist” has tried to convene with the dead for a long time and finally happens upon a real ghost in the hospital. She sets out to solve the mystery of the ghost’s identity and comes upon some very bad signs and a very shady past for the hospital.
Meanwhile, the hospital staff welcome their newest member, “Stig” who may or may not have caused irreparable brain damage to a child. A nurse who may have slept with a ghost, is pregnant, and thinking of starting a romance with a colleague. And a medical student has a fascination with a cadaver that looks just like him, now if only he could find where he put that guy’s head. In general a great setup to a story.
The overall structure does not disappoint either: slowly unravelling mysteries, methodical plot development, but it all seems so natural that the spontaneity of the series is delightful. Plot development, character, and on top of that it’s humor (not British, not American, distinctly ironic and distinctly European) is understated, but a key element of this series’ success. Lars Von Trier wrote and directed this series with the intention of it being a three-part stint. The third was never made, but the second is also available and highly recommended as well. A solid sequel to a fantastic series. There is also a Stephen King version available, which I don’t recommend as much as the original.