The Kingdom (1994)
Starring: Ernst-Hugo Järegård (The Slingshot, Europa), Søren Pilmark (Stealing Rembrandt)
Directed By: Lars von Trier (Manderlay, The Element Of Crime), Morton Arnfred (Move Me, "The Kingdom II")
Overview: The Kingdom, a Danish hospital at the forefront of technological advancement, lies on the site of an ancient burial ground. In a place deep with the spiritual and the scientific, disturbed souls, malpractice and politics all play their part.
Acting: This is probably the worst thing Lars von Trier ever was a part of. Disturbed by a recent breakdown brought on by the death of his mother who recently told him that the man who raised him was not his father, Lars cracked and went broke. Then to earn a living, he made a mini-series. I know others have mocked this work since, but for as much as this was his sell-out piece, it's still good. The crew is top quality and the direction is solid, if not a little too comedic. I forgive you, Lars. At least making a mini-series seemed to really kick-start your career.
Cinematography: Reminiscent of the Element Of Crime, we have that orange darkroom haze about the place. It's quite daring for television to do such a thing as add such a prevalent mood of darkness, but there's also the art-progressive Europe to consider too. I will admit the special effects are a little weak, like the blue screen technology and the ghosts as merely semi-transparent things, but there's enough innovation and attention to know a real effort was put forth to come up with something original.
Script: Social interaction is the brunt of the storyline, and when you have one holier-than-thou doctor in conflict with the hypochondriac psychic while the boyish, bumbling, intelligent but ignorant Chief also leads the occult lodge in the basement... well that's a good start for an interesting Drama. It's well written and there's even a mystery to solve on top of all the ethical conflicts that are ever present.
Plot: The cover box proudly declares "like ER on acid!". If you go into this thinking it's this horrible place full of ghosts and hauntings, terror and suspense, you won't like it. This is primarily a hospital drama that revolves around a foppish doctor's questionable methods and an old medium who senses spirits about. There's other plotlines as a good mini-series is wont to have, but it's more Drama than Thriller. The most disappointing thing about this is the ending, a cliff-hanger and a half, and it's going to be hard getting my hands on a UK-available copy of the sequel.
Mood: At the end of each episode we find Lars in a tux and a bowtie talking about the show that just transpired. It's a little creepy seeing a man sell his soul on Danish television, (rather than the ever-consistent American daytime / late night talk show sell-out). Lars is like a monkey in an organ grinder suit, and you know that if he didn't regret it at the time, he sure as hell regrets this now. Those out there who say that Lars von Trier is a genius for what he did here probably don't understand him. He was most likely in the lowest place he's ever been in his life and he still managed to make a quality show rife with suspense, drama and comedy, and with great acclaim too.
Overall Rating: 76% (Almost Rulez...)
Aftertaste: Not the kind of production that should be used to compare his talent to the rest, this was the last little know thing that Lars von Trier made before his fame was cinched with Breaking The Waves. Stephen King of all people jumped on the bandwagon and made his own version, which I won't see on principle, and of course also because, well, I've seen it already in its original form, that being this, and this being better, at least from what I hear.