and Morten Arnfred
At the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center April 3–7
It’s tempting to see The Kingdom II as yet another of writer-director Lars von Trier’s seemingly unmotivated revenges upon the world. Made for Danish television in 1997 and continuing from 1994’s first installment, the two-part, nearly five-hour provocation scourges everything in its path, notably the two forms it gleefully combines: the hospital soap opera and the horror movie. Never commercially released in the United States but recently cannibalized by Stephen King for American TV, the berserk miniseries imagines a most unusual Copenhagen medical facility. A preposterous doctor’s fraternity meets on the top floor, Satanic masses are conducted in the sub-basement, and bizarrely afflicted patients dwell in between. The building is awash in hostility: Administrators loathe consultants, support workers despise doctors, demons abhor humans, and a Swedish doctor reviles all Danes. (The last gets some amoral support from a Swedish lawyer—a cameo by von Trier regular Stellan Skarsgård—who arrives to denounce Denmark as “an idiotic country.”) Like everything else in the movie, the surfeit of resentment is not to be taken too seriously. At one point, an administrator notes, “A certain measure of class hatred is necessary to keep an enterprise of this size running smoothly.” Although not Dogma-certified—it’s full of special effects, which the ascetic filmmaking code forbids—The Kingdom II does look like a von Trier enterprise. It was shot in harsh light with frantic handheld camera and features a duo of dishwashing commentators who have Down syndrome. Yet the movie is not all von Trier’s: It was co-directed by Morten Arnfred and co-scripted by Niels Vørsel—which may explain why it’s both funnier and, for all its hysteria, a little lighter on its feet than both The Idiots and the upcoming Dogville. Though that also makes this latest Kingdom more scattershot than the first installment, the film does retain much of the original’s wild energy and mood-swinging wit. As for its closing promise of a Kingdom III, only von Trier and Satan—if the two are indeed separate entities—would want that.