review for The Kingdom on AllMovie

The Kingdom (1994)
by Lucia Bozzola review

Often summed up as a fusion of ER, Twin Peaks, and The Hospital (1971), Lars von Trier's The Kingdom (1994) is as engrossing as its antecedents and an inspired horror-comic satire of medical hubris. Shot on location in a Copenhagen hospital called the Kingdom, von Trier's ghost story takes its time setting up the central ensemble of doctors, nurses, medical students, orderlies, and patients, rendering the later events and discoveries all the more chilling and darkly humorous. With the sepia-toned color evoking decay from the ominous prologue onward, The Kingdom reaches a sublime horror climax sure to delight Udo Kier fans (not to mention David Cronenberg), leaving open copious questions for Riget II. Moving away from Zentropa's (1992) polished avant-gardism toward Breaking the Waves' (1996) roughness, The Kingdom's shaky hand-held 16 mm camerawork and jump cuts create a skittish intimacy; the mobile long takes and eerie aerial shots suggest the presence of unseen, supernatural observers to the hospital's follies -- except in the scenes featuring the wise, clairvoyant dishwashers. A hit on Danish TV, The Kingdom's theatrical release in the U.S. solidified von Trier's reputation as a prodigiously talented provocateur.