The Kingdom (Riget)

The Kingdom

Danish scum!

A bit of a to-do has been made among us 1001 Bloggers about Lars von Trier’s miniseries Riget (or The Kingdom); specifically, that because it is a TV miniseries first and foremost, that it shouldn’t be counted as a proper film and included in the Book as a result. Sure, it eventually was edited into a two-part, five hour film for release in the US and UK, but to include it just because of that is opening a whole wide berth of other potential entries to be added. One can argue on and on about whether this really qualifies as a proper entry, but the fact is; whatever the reasoning the editors had, it made the list, so we are honor-bound to treat is as equally as any other entry, despite its slightly unfair running time (still, films like Shoah and Satantango take it even further, so I guess we should be happy with what we have).

The film/series takes place in a hospital for which the title serves as a nickname; the prologue of each episode goes on about how it was built on the “bleaching ponds”, and how this would influence the eerie and supernatural events that would haunt the hospital, of which we are a privy to in the series. An ambulance appears each night, then disappears without a trace; a spiritually-inclined patient hears a young girl crying in an elevator lift; and, in my favorite aspect of the series, a couple of lonely dishwashers, acting as a chorus for the audience, discuss the unnatural events that happen in the hospital, as if they are a privy to absolutely everything that happens without leaving their stations (almost omnipotent). The whole film/miniseries is shot like a docu-drama (which it essentially is, except for being purely fictional), with a floating handheld camera following the doctors and patients and characters around as the events occur. This is a personal quibble of mine, but I’ve always found that a handheld camera is the “easy way out” for cinematographers; too common nowadays are films that opt for handheld for no appropriate reason, or because they’re not skilled enough with a tripod. Riget isn’t like that, though; it is a deliberate choice of presentation style, albeit one that irks me to no end. What else was interesting was that the whole film was tinted in sepia tone, as if the film itself were dipped in light coffee. I actually wasn’t really sure why they decided to do this, but it’s prevalent enough that it warranted a mention.

There’s a lot of human drama and goings-on that occurs throughout the series, and that was interesting enough, but you could find that in almost any series you choose to watch. Where Riget really succeeds, for me, was the supernatural elements that were introduced, and my attention rose considerably whenever these aspects would make their way on screen. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of unanswered questions by the end of things, and a second miniseries was made as well, though that had even more unanswered questions than the first, and with the deaths of several of the main players, the planned third series will likely never come to fruition. If you’re going to watch this expecting every mystery and plot development to be wrapped up, I’m sorry to say you will probably be disappointed. Me, however, I was riveted through most of this; the supernatural elements are very prevalent throughout, so my attention was at a peak, and despite the first series (I stuck to only watching the first) ending on one of the biggest cliffhangers I think I’ve ever seen, I still felt largely satisfied. I can’t say the same for everyone, though; I went into it knowing it was going to be open-ended, but even still, there’s a lot left over that one has to wonder about.

Also, I’d just like to mention; the opening title card of “Riget” breaking apart from a backwash of what appears to be blood is probably the creepiest title card I think I’ve ever seen. That it was at the beginning of each episode and thus recurring only compounded the creepiness.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

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