The King Is Alive

Dogma 95, a Danish manifesto that calls for natural lighting, digital cinematography, and improvisational acting, seems to work best in films that strip down the psychology of a dysfunctional group in a single location and a limited time span (The Celebration). True to form, this 2000 Danish feature by Kristin Levring examines 11 passengers of a tour bus (including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Janet McTeer, Bruce Davison, Brion James, and Romane Bohringer) that breaks down at an abandoned mining town in the Namibian desert. Awaiting their rescue, the passengers endure primitive conditions and decide to stage King Lear; the project unleashes fear and loathing, and Levring wastes no opportunity to reference Shakespeare (as well as Lifeboat, Apocalypse Now, and Lord of the Flies). The venomous confrontations are shot mostly in close-up, which drags us into the melee, yet the script flits from one encounter to the next, leaving behind only gut-wrenching performances and a vivid feel for the locale—humid interiors and forlorn stretches of desert and dark, both symbolizing recesses of emotion that may otherwise have eluded us. 109 min.

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