Thursday, October 28, 2010
(Note this pertains only to the first season of The Kingdom)
Why’d I Buy It?: Picked It Up at the Hollywood Video is burning down sale.
Why Haven’t I Watched It?: Let me put this as delicately as I can. Lars Von Trier is considered to be one of the most important cinematic voices working today. And I more or less think he’s full of shit. (Mostly)
My problem with Von Trier, is simply I have not seen a single frame of a single one of his films in which I did not believe that he was just fucking with me. I may think that Michael Haneke makes glorified Skinner Boxes instead of films, but I believe he at least is upfront about the terms of his experimentation.
Von Trier on the other hand never makes films that are about what they are about. Dogville isn’t really about American hypocracy. It’s about Von Trier getting to gang rape one of the most famous women in the world. Dancer In The Dark is about Von Trier getting to torment another, not the story at hand. Some find the closing shots of Breaking The Waves to be among the most transcendant in cinema. I see it as little more then a giant floating middle finger pointed right at the audience.
Whether this failure is Von Trier’s as a director or mine as a viewer, I’ll leave as an open question. The point is I get very little to nil out of Von Trier’s films and feel I could live a full and happy life without ever seeing another one. So I don’t exactly go out of my way to watch them. Particularly when my first exposure to the material is the well meaning, ahead of its time, and completely disastrous Kingdom Hospital. A show that featured a wise cracking Anteater who was also the lord of the dead.
How Was It?:
Grr… It was actually pretty good.
Yes, though I can’t say it’s changed my opinion towards Von Trier as a whole, there’s no denying that The Kingdom is a seriously creepy, seriously strange, and seriously affective piece of horror filmmaking.
With it’s eccentric cast, bizarre subplots, and absurd perpendicular sense of humor, The Kingdom resembles Twin Peaks more then the full on horror film I expected.
Many of Von Trier’s best scenes involve nothing supernatural at all. Like the part in episode one where the Head of the hospital, joining a secret society, is solemnly made to swear to be an enemy of the occult and a servant of reason, before participating in a ritual so arcane, so sublimely silly, that it almost beggars description.
It gets as much mileage from subplots involving office politics (Operation Morning Air) severed heads and diseased livers, as it does from the ghost ambulance that pulls up to it’s door’s every night.
Some of the old Von Trier Bullshit does creep up. Particularly in a down syndrome greek chorus/kitchen staff, who are literally magic and also omniscient. Luckily these are cases are few and far between.
Of course when The Kingdom does want to scare you, it comes prepared. And it’s that quality, the ability to put away his subplots and sick games, and face his subject head on, if only for a few scenes, that I find so lacking in the rest of his work. And that makes The Kingdom such an unforgettable ride.
That Von Trier. He ever finds something that engages him, he might make one heck of a film someday.