The Kingdom

on September 28, 2007 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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   Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier follows his serious political drama "Zentropa" with a distinct change of pace, a funny horror romp through a haunted Copenhagen hospital nicknamed The Kingdom. His large cast of characters includes a Swedish surgeon who hates Danes and periodically goes to the hospital roof to rail against "Danish scum," another physician who falls in love with a female colleague but then decides she is a ghost, a befuddled chief of staff who hides when a health ministry inspection team visits his facility, and a little girl who's haunting the premises. It seems she was murdered years ago in The Kingdom but, unable to find eternal rest, wanders the halls, scaring people with her presence.
   If "The Kingdom" sounds more than a little deranged, it is. Think of TV's "ER" as directed by David Lynch (or, better yet, "Tales of the Gimli Hospital's" Guy Maddin). Its sepia tinting adding to the creepy atmospherics, "The Kingdom" is fast-moving and highly involving. Shown in two parts (and four sections, each ending on a gruesome, B-movie note), the film belies its nearly five-hour running length. It's never dull; whether it's meaningful is another matter. There are jibes at hospital bureaucracy, medical profession arrogance and even horror-genre conventions, but "The Kingdom's" main goal is to entertain. Any doubts about that are erased by the movie's delicious show-closing punch- line, which is Von Trier's acknowledgment that he's not taking any of this too seriously.    Starring Ernst Hugo Haregard, Kirsten Rolffes and Ghita Norby. Directed by Lars Von Trier. Written by Lars Von Trier and Niels Vorsel. Produced by Ole Reim. An October Films release. Comedy/horror. Danish-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running times: Part One, 133 min. ;Part Two, 146 min.
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