Lars von Trier admits the source of inspiration for The Kingdom was the David Lynch tv series Twin Peaks (1990-91) whose shadow of bizarre happenings hangs over everything here. The series takes its time to build but becomes compulsive watching once it does it. There is an especially rich vein of black comedy running throughout like the operating room sequence where Ernst Hugo Järegård finds he has to operate on a patient who has been hypnotised rather than anesthetised and keeps waking up throughout; or the scenes involving the various attempts to break into the archives that all go catastrophically wrong; and the end of the film with everything bizarre in the hospital contriving to make itself known at once. Ernst Hugo Järegård gives a wonderful performance as the bullying Helmer his rants against the stupidity of the Danes on the roof of the hospital and the scene where he dresses Søren Pilmark down for ordering a CAT scan are side-splitting.
Balanced against this are a series of eerie manifestations of the supernatural. There is a genuinely spooky scene with Kirsten Rolffes communicating with a dying woman, which is conducted by the dying woman causing the rooms neon fluorescent lights to flicker. So too are the scenes where they manage to pick up the little girl crying Why did they kill me? in the background noise of the room, or the moment where Kirsten Rolffes walks through the hospital with the little girls doll and her ghostly hand comes up through the floor to grab it. Also very effective is the opening credits sequence that clearly sets itself in the divide between science and superstition, which contains a striking metaphor about the cracks in the walls of reason having started to appear. The spooky manifestations aside though, one cannot help but feel that the appearance of solely a ghostly little girl does sell a grandiose concept as the breakdown in the walls of reason short.
The series is shot in sepia-tone which, when seen in cinematic blow-up, is blurry on the eyes, something further added to by much use of handheld camerawork. The biggest downer about the film version is that after some five hours it ends with a frustrating to be continued ... This was taken up with the lesser but nevertheless still enjoyable The Kingdom II (1997) where Lars von Trier, Morten Arnfred and the whole cast returned. This, however, was not the end either. Both von Trier and producer Peter Aalbaek Jensen have promised a final wrapup The Kingdom III, but the subsequent deaths of both Ernst Hugo Järegård and Kirsten Roelffs has put the likelihood of this in question. The series eventually underwent remake for US tv as Kingdom Hospital (2004) scripted by Stephen King, which lasted for 13 episodes. Although faithful to the original, the element of black comedy was distinctly missing and the series a disappointment.
Lars von Triers other films of genre interest as a director are: the decayed future film noir The Element of Crime (1984); Epidemic (1987), a peculiar meta-fiction about filmmakers making a film about a plague and hypnotism; Breaking the Waves (1996), an emotionally devastating film about a womans masochistic sacrifices for her husband, which eventually arrives at a fantastic climax; Antichrist (2009), a film about grief that spirals into madness and extreme torture scenes; the End of the World film Melancholia (2011); and the serial killer film The House That Jack Built (2018). von Trier was also Executive Producer on Kingdom Hospital (2004), the Stephen King scripted, US tv series remake of The Kingdom. von Triers production company Zentropa Entertainments have also produced and co-produced numerous other films. Of genre note are the Icelandic Magical Realist quest Cold Fever (1995); the Swedish fairytale The Glassblowers Children (1998); the surreal Old Dark House thriller Impotence/Powerlessness (1998); Possessed (1999), a plague film about The Devil returning at the Millennium; Kat (2001), a horror film about a possessed cat; the Dogme film Truly Human (2001) about an imaginary man becoming real; The Last Great Wilderness (2002), a Gothic thriller set in the Scottish Highlands; Thomas Vinterbergs near-future romance Its All About Love (2003); In Your Hands (2004), a Dogme film about miracle healing prison inmate; the remarkable puppet fantasy Strings (2004); the ghost story Behind External Calm (2005); the dark reality-twisting Norweigian film Next Door (2005); Princess (2006), an animated film about an anti-porn vigilante; the fantasy Island of Lost Souls (2006); the horror film Echo (2007); the satirical dystopia How to Get Rid of Others (2007); Through a Glass Darkly (2008) about a girl receiving a mysterious visitation; the Dystopian film Metropia (2009); and Perfect Sense (2011) set in a world where people are losing their sensory perception.
Trailer here (Danish language no subs):-
Fan-edited trailer here:-