Riget I & II (The Kingdom)

Lars von Triers (Dogville, Dancer in the Dark) Riget (Wikipedia, IMDb Riget I, IMDb Riget II) is a wild mix of mystery, hospital-drama, comedy and horror elements. The show follows the staff and patients of the “Kingdom”-hospital in Copenhagen. Strange phenomena occur and supernatural things take over the hospital. The rational doctors don’t believe in occult things and try to deny it but slowly get involved. Two dishwasher with Down Syndrome ‘explain’ the events, but never get actively involved in the plot. Given that Riget is a mystery show, it often avoids explaining anything and leaves the audience alone solving the ‘puzzle’.

The first seasons main story is about a ghost-girl, which was murdered a long time ago. The girls soul cannot rest until the past is unrevealed. So its quit a classic story. The second season has a more blurry story line. Basically it shows the development around a daemon-baby and an evil spirit. In both seasons the Swedish doctor Sig Helmer tries to obscure his medical malpractice. He hates Denmark and tries manipulate everything to his advantage.

As I said the format of the show is extremely weird. The humor is sometime subtle, sometimes slapstick-like. The camera is often shaky and there are lots of jump cuts, color-filter and other image-distortions. Also actors with Down Syndrome aren’t seen often. After each episode Lars von Trier summarizes the plot and makes relations with the real world.

The first season was released in 1994, the second in 1997. So given that age and not being a Hollywood-budget production, the image-quality is very poor by today standards. Especially in dark scene the noisy image is annoying. Season one was filmed on 16mm and cut classically by hand. With all the jump-cuts it must have been a painful process.

Because Ernst-Hugo Järegård who played Dr Helmer died 1998 and the Danmarks Radio lost interest a third season was never made.

There is an U.S. remake called Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital. I haven’t watched it yet, but usually remakes are worse than the original.

Star-O-Meter:starstarstarstarstar (5/5)

The German DVD-Release:

The opening sequence:

Dr. Helmer: Danish scum:

Closing word by Lars von Triers: