The Kingdom II (1997)
Robert Winter on April 4, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Madman (Australia), Region 4, PAL. 4:3. Danish DD 2.0. English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finish, Romanian, Portugese, Serbian Subtitles. 286 Minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Lars von Trier
Starring: Ernst-Hugo Jaregard, Peter Mygind, Kirsten Rolffes, Holger Juul Hansen
Screenplay: Niels Vorsel, Lars von Trier
Music: Joachim Holbek
Country: Denmark
AKA: Riget II
If you're craving for more of the bizarre melodrama, horror and dark humour of the original Kingdom, then Part II serves it up all again on a macabre silver platter. While some answers to key plot points from Part I are resolved, like cancerous cells multiplying, many new ones are introduced to ravage the characters we now know quite intimately.

After a five-minute recap, Part II gets straight into the action. Fearing that he will be sued for malpractice, evil-bastard Dr Helmer returns from Haiti with a drug that will turn whistle-blowing surgeon Dr Hook into a zombie, the hypochondriac spiritualist suffers a rather ironic fate, and Judith has to come to terms with giving birth to a hideously deformed baby that has a fully-developed man's head - which incidentally belongs to Euro-cult legend Udo Kier in perhaps his most surreal role yet.

While Part II has been criticised for a seeming lack of plot direction, I think it's this spontaneity and unpredictability that make it such a unique and unnerving viewing experience. This time around the supernatural presence is portrayed as a ravenous eye, watching and waiting for the time to strike rather than the all-pervasive, but discrete force it was depicted as in Part I. The resultant 'sickness' the evil seems to bring upon the Ward's patients and staff is the focus here, so a great deal of screen time is centred on developing the characters to cope with their increasingly weird circumstances.

Again, like in Part I, the lurid, disturbing imagery and jet-black humour is effectively seared with the mundane. Von Trier continues to revel in bitch-slapping his audience with viscerally alarming scenes. A few highlights include the moment when we discover that a number of surgeons pass their time between operations enjoying Snuff films, and later a normally warm and touching moment is turned into something quite grotesque as we're subjected to Judith bonding with and breast-feeding her repulsive man-baby. Or perhaps worst of all is the ritualistic habits of a Jamaican intern. After eating a large chunk of bloody pulp from the back of a patient's head he says: "It's the next best substitute since they took the vitamins out of Danish beer." All sublime stuff indeed.

Annoyingly, Part II ends with several plot threads left dangling and the suggestion that a Part III is on the way. Tragically, the two pivotal cast members Ernst-Hugo Järegård (evil Doctor Helmer) and Kirsten Rolffes (hypochondriac spiritualist) have shuffled off this mortal coil, so I can't imagine how the series could continue without them.
Video
Like Part I, the same deliberately soft, grainy full-frame orange-sepia toned transfer can be found here. The good news is that it does give the series a dirty, gritty feel which can be a striking contrast to the reality of the sterile surgical environment. But more often than not, it borders dangerously on just looking plain irritating.

The subtitles are again presented as white text and are easy to read.
Audio
Another opportunity to enhance the visual drama is lost with the rather flat Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. The front speakers channel the dialogue with crystal clarity, which is fine if you speak Dutch. However, there are quite a few moments when the soundstage could have been opened up to create a more immersive experience.
Extra Features
In Lars Von Trier's Kingdom - In this revealing 40-minute documentary, a frank and likeable Von Trier talks about his influences, approach to making films and his life-long struggle with depression and "cataclysmic angst."

Commentary tracks – As in Part I, we're again given some insights by Von Trier, Scriptwriter Niels Vorsel and Editor Molly Stensgard about the filming of four key scenes.

The Shiver music video – Mercifully lasting only two minutes, this atrocious video for the title song by The Shiver has clips from the series intercut with a bunch of dancers (including Von Trier) performing a twitchy, retarded routine.

The Shiver bloopers – Running a couple of seconds longer than the actual music video, this blooper reel demonstrates why Von Trier should never stray from writing or directing.
The Verdict
For those in the mood to take a long cautious walk through a dark and grotesque place then The Kingdom series is just the fix for jaded horror junkies.
Movie Score
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