Sunday, January 15, 2012

Riget (1994)

The Kingdom is the most technologically advanced hospital in Denmark, a gleaming bastion of medical science. A rash of uncanny occurrences, however, begins to weaken the staff's faith in science--a phantom ambulance pulls in every night, but disappears; voices echo in the elevator shaft; and a pregnant doctor's fetus seems to be developing much faster than is natural. At the goading of a spiritualist patient, some employees work to let supernatural forces rest. (Imdb rating 8.6)

I'll let you in on a secret; most of the time, I know before I watch something whether it will fit this blog or not. When the movie's title is something like Vampire Whores from Outer Space, you can't help it. But while I'd heard rumblings about Lars von Trier's Riget (The Kingdom), I had no idea about how gloriously scary and insane it would turn out to be.

Mr von Triers is known for being very 'artsy', hell, he's one of the founders of what is possibly the world's most pretentious film movements in Dogme 95. Riget, having been developed before Dogme 95, shows early signs of future techniques, such as the complete lack of artificial film lighting, shooting completely on location, and handheld camera work. While the resulting images are grainy and under developed, the swooping camera movements, strange angles and frankly bizarre editing at times creates a genuine air of atmosphere.

I hope there are no ghosts up there.....

The show also manages to straddle a delicate line between scenes of humour and scares very well, never sinking too deeply into either, but there are still plenty of both. It's also quite graphic for a tv show (maybe the Danish have less problems with violent/sexual material on tv?), and while the special effects are nothing special, let me just tell you to be prepared for the last five seconds of the last episode. It takes me a lot to yell out 'what the fuck!' when I'm sitting by myself watching something, but I did here....

I honestly can't wait to watch Riget II, and have a feeling it will be as good as the first. I heartily recommend Riget, if you can handle the somewhat slowish beginning of the first episode:

Things I learnt:
  • Dishwashers with Down Syndrome have amazing spirit sensing/future reading abilities.
  • Kids steal crappy tire hubcaps with you don't take them with you.
  • Smoking is fine in Danish hospitals.