The Kingdom and The Kingdom II | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Kingdom and The Kingdom II

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The Kingdom and The Kingdom II

An obnoxious neurosurgeon (Ernest-Hugo Jaregard), infamous for plagiarism before he came from Sweden to work at the Kingdom--a Copenhagen hospital built on ancient marshland--botches an operation on a young girl; his hatred of all things Danish becomes a refrain in this satanic social commentary. Nuanced repetitious behavior is one way Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves)--who wrote this nine-and-a-half-hour serial with Tomas Gislason and Niels Vorsel and directed it with Morten Arnfred--makes sympathetic the many annoying or despicable denizens of the hospital. Wanting to continue a dialogue started by a ghost in an elevator shaft, a spiritualist patient (Kirsten Rolffes) manages to get herself readmitted as soon as she's released, then begins investigating a century-old crime whose grisly evidence is hidden somewhere in the hospital. Meanwhile several of the residents and students fall in love, each connection leading to a novel, protracted tragedy played out in low-lit corridors and cramped rooms, whose oddly comforting oppressiveness is broken by aerial shots of the vast building, at once ominous, exalted, and ordinary. The hospital staff includes a self-mutilating pathologist who instills in his students a religious reverence for body parts. Another staffer gets it on with one of the volunteers in the sleep-research lab, while a squeamish student watches splatter movies in a futile attempt to inure herself to gore. The Kingdom (parts one through four of this occult-horror soap opera) is a masterpiece of tone whose moments of comedy are so dry and unexpected you almost aren't aware of them until you're steeped again in darkness. The Kingdom II (parts five through eight) is less brilliant--it's impressively thick with plot, but the characterizations and moods aren't nearly as subtle. Still, it's irresistible because it continues the engrossing serial and contains some its most fascinating images, including some nauseating close-ups and brief glimpses of surreal monstrosities that linger in the imagination. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, August 22, 6:00 (The Kingdom, parts one and two) and 8:45 (The Kingdom, parts three and four), and Sunday, August 23, 1:00 (The Kingdom II, parts five and six) and 3:45 (The Kingdom II, parts seven and eight), 312-443-3737. --Lisa Alspector

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): The Kingdom II film still.

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