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DVD SAVANT

Savant Double Disc Danish Review:

The Kingdom 2


The Kingdom 2
Fejui Media Corporation
1997 / Color / 1:37 / 286m.
Starring Ernst-Hugo Jaregaard, Kirsten Rolffes, Holger Juul Hansen, Soren Pilmark, Ghita Norby, Jens Okking, Otto Brandenburg, Annevig Schelde Ebbe, Baard Owe, Birgitte Raaberg, Peter Mygind, Vita Jensen, Morten Rotne Leffers, Solbjorg Hojfeldt, Udo Kier
Cinematography Eric Kress
Production Designer Jette Lehmann
Film Editors Molly Marlene Stensgaard, Pernille Beck Christiansen
Original Music Joachim Holbek
Writing credits Niels Vorsel and Lars von Trier
Produced by Sven Abrahamsen, Philippe Bober, Peter Aalbek Jensen, Ole Reim, Ib Tardini
Directed by Morten Arnfred, Lars von Trier

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

The Kingdom left so many of its subplots unresolved that the existence of a Kingdom 2 had us reaching to check it out almost immediately. The second five-hour installment in this medical saga is a solid achievement, far better than the second season of Twin Peaks, the bizarre David Lynch series that seems to have inspired this Danish extravaganza. With all of the characters established, part two delves deeper into horror than the first; those who want to stay plot-virginal are advised to skip the following synopsis, which reveals situations, not climaxes.

Synopsis:

Things get more intense at the massive hospital known as The Kingdom: The strange deformed baby (Udo Kier) born to Judith (Birgitte Raaberg) is soon becoming a gargantuan monster, unable to move from its hospital bed. Krogshoj (Soren Pilmark) falls victim to Dr. Helmer's (Ernst-Hugo Jaregaard) zombie potion and is prepared for burial. The brain-dead Mona (Laura Christiansen) begins to communicate incriminating messages about Helmer through her spelling blocks. Poor administrator Moesgaard (Holger Juul Hansen) suffers humiliations at the hands of a rogue group therapy specialist who has commandeered a clinic deep inside the building. Moesgaard's randy son Mogge (Peter Mygind) is heavily involved keeping the sexually demanding Camilla (Solbjord Holjfeldt) satisfied, and betting on 'The Falcon', a daredevil who drives the phantom ambulance on the wrong side of the road. Rigmor (Ghita Norby) stops shooting at rats and takes serious aim at Dr. Helmer, with both her gun and some Krogshoj-style blackmail. And the perplexing Dr. Bondo (Baard Owe) refuses to remove the horrid liver cancer growing within him, consumed (literally) by the idea of nurturing it to world-record size.

On the ghost front, Sigrid Drusse (Kirsten Rolffes) is confronted with a hospital full of anxious spectres. The stolen head of a corpse interred in a wall has become possessed; there is a diabolical coven operating somewhere and the murderous spirit from 1919, Aage Kruger (Udo Kier) reveals itself to be a personification of Satan himself. One of the doctors in the Kingdom is a secret ringleader of the coven, but who?

With most of the idiosyncratic qualities of the leading players already well-known, The Kingdom 2 doesn't have the original's intoxicating feeling of discovery, but it does a good job of keeping the pot boiling and developing some of its subplots. Bondo's liver tumor becomes the Cronenberg story that David Cronenberg never thought of; it's quite logical from all directions, no matter how unpleasant it seems. With the ghost presence already well established, The Kingdom 2 settles into some generic haunting situations, becoming unavoidably mired in the stock horror of demons causing a priest's brain to hemmorrage, and an obscene devil cult convening in an unexplored corner of the basement. Not that these events aren't well presented - it's just that they're so familiar, after the continual surprises of part One.

The feeling that these daffy Danes (must be a fun bunch) are riffing off of Twin Peaks is reinforced by the less serious 'demon hunt' done for a wily hospital efficiency consultant by the name of Bob. Apparently needing to open up the story from part one, The Kingdom 2 does bring in a few unneccessary subplots. There are many more scenes in broad daylight, and plot threads that seem less than inspired (Drusse's accident, her son Bulder's surprise relationship to one of the medicos, Helmer's automobile problems). But even the repetitions, such as the motion detector in the archive that forces interlopers to freeze in their tracks, are given fun twists. The most jarring introduction (which ends up being a two-scene stunt) is that of a faith healer who appears to be ripping disgusting tumors out of Drusse's head and Bondo's diaphragm by magical means - and immediately eating them!

That's a bit of grossness that makes its case and moves on. Stylistically, the occult touches seem less assured than before, and not just because of familiarity. A green visual disturbance splashes across the screen every few minutes to signal the presence of evil spirits, and unlike the subtle suggestions of Part One, it becomes as predictable as the intermittent returns to the psychic dishwashers. Likewise, there's a lessened balance between the inspired bureaucratic chaos and the less interesting horror content. When the story arc of Judith's Eraserhead / Basket Case offspring begins to fall into place, what started as an outrageous way to end part one, kind of bogs down this sequel, by no fault of the actors.

The Kingdom 2 is still jolting and funny and moving. Perhaps the (minor) frustration comes from simply being spoiled; this second installment ends with half of its plot lines unresolved, just as with part One. And this time a sequel is unlikely, as leading player Ernst-Hugo Jaregaard died in 1998. One rather interesting unresolved plot line involves Krogshoj, the scheming but philanthropic intern. After giving part one its funniest scenes, he spends most of Part 2 as a sleeping zombie, and then becomes heartless and hateful. We never find out if he's become deranged from his time spent buried alive, or if he's truly a zombie. What he most resembles is 1916's Homunculus , a German/Danish expressionist film featuring an artificial man who (naturally) is evil because, like the artificially-inseminated Alraune, he has no soul. The seething look on Soren Pilmark's face even reminds of the stills Savant has seen of that old movie.


The Kingdom 2 on DVD is handled by an entirely different company than Part One. The first difference is that the show is spread across two discs, and unless you read Chinese you'll have to experiment to find out which disc comes first - they're both identically marked as far as English and numerals go. Otherwise the production looks completely familiar - fair-to-middling compression, scrambled but intelligible subtitles. There is an additional subtitling frustration ... none of the alphabet-block messages spelled out by Mona are translated, a serious drawback unless you have a Danish dictionary handy (ours is at the cleaners). Also, it appears that Mr. Von Trier makes a personal appearance behind the end titles of each episode, talking pleasantly in Alfred Hitchcock fashion. Nothing he says is translated either, again leaving us in the dark.

Note: Several readers asked for more information about how to find The Kingdom DVDs online, as they don't seem to be in stores. Geoffrey Kleinman offered this link to at least one place it can be found, the site HKFlix, which I offer here not as a commercial inducement - Savant has no ties with the site.

HKFlix
http://www.hkflix.com/xq/asp/filmID.1101/aid.007782/qx/details.htm


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
The Kingdom 2 rates:
Movie: Very good
Video: same bizarre anti-handsome style
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: none
Packaging: 2 keep cases
Reviewed: October 1, 2001



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