Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Kingdom Exodus


Based on the 1994 and 1997 TV miniseries by Lars von Trier, Riget: Exodus is the belated third season in which a sleepwalker returns to the doomed hospital where a lot of strange incidents occurred more than 25 years ago. Directed by Lars von Trier and written by von Trier and Niels Vorsel, the third season isn’t just a return to the haunted hospital in which a lot of chaotic elements occurred but also those who return seeking answers into their conditions. Starring Bodil Jorgensen, Mikael Persbrandt, Lars Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Tuva Novotny, David Dencik, and special appearances by Alexander Skarsgard and Willem Dafoe. Riget: Exodus is a terrifying, witty, and audacious TV miniseries from Lars von Trier.

25 years since the release of Riget II that ended with a conclusion that were left with more questions than answers into the fates of many of its characters. It was an ending that was widely considered unsatisfying and for the longest time, it looked like there were going to be unanswered since several actors from the first two mini-series have died. Death is a prominent theme in the third and final part of the mini-series yet it takes place 25 years after what happened as it revolves around a sleepwalker in Karen (Bodil Jorgensen) who is watching the finale of Riget II as she wakes up from her sleep as she walks into the Kingdom as she is given a mission to finish what Mrs. Drusse was trying to uncover. Like the two mini-series before, each episode opens with images of people washing clothes onto a swamp known as bleach pools is where the Kingdom would be built and it would end with Lars von Trier talking to the audience about what had happened on the episode as well as telling the audience to take the good with the evil. This time around, von trier only appears behind the curtains as a way to hide his current-self due to his Parkinson’s diagnosis with only his shoes appearing.

The teleplay by von Trier and Niels Vorsel does keep the same narrative structure like in the miniseries before except there’s a lot more chaos around from within as well as this conflict between the Swedes and the Danes with several Swedes working in a hospital as they all have to try and hide their identities with many of them converging into a group meeting known as Swedes Anonymous. There are five episodes in this season instead of four in the two previous seasons though each episode has a cold open with the first one entitled Halmar having Karen watching Riget II on DVD as the season has a lot of mentions and references to the previous show with complaints over its lack of realism and how they blame von Trier for ruining the hospital’s reputation. Several characters from the previous seasons such as Jorgen “Hook” Krogshoj (Soren Pilmark), Judith Petersen (Brigitte Raaberg), Rigmor Mortensen (Ghita Norby), Morten “Mogge” Moesgaard (Peter Mygind, Little/Big Brother (Udo Kier), Mona (Laura Christensen), the secretary Fru Svendsen (Birthe Neumann), Director Bob (Henning Jensen), and Camilla (Solbjorg Hojfeldt) do return as it play into their own fates and what had happened to them. Yet, von Trier and Vorsel chooses to focus on not just the new characters but also this growing chaos within the hospital that is coming out during the Christmas holidays.

In Halmar Stig Helmer Jr. (Mikael Persbrandt) arrives to the Kingdom from Sweden to oversee and observe the hospital’s operations if it lives up to standards similar to Sweden as he tries to not cause or bring trouble. Instead, he learns that Danes have managed to live up to standards but also with ideas that are confusing as its manager Pontopidan (Lars Mikkelsen) is trying to avoid conflict and chaos while also dealing with insomnia and the presence of Mortensen who annoys him whenever they meet in the elevator. Among the main people in the staff that Helmer has to deal with is the irritable Filip Naver (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), Mogge, and the Swedish nurse Anna (Tuva Novotny) whom he would be attracted to yet she would sue him for sexual harassment in the second episode entitled The Congress Dances where the two both go to the Swedish lawyer (Alexander Skarsgard) who does his practice in a bathroom like his father did before him in the second season where Helmer learns about his father upon meeting Mortensen. That episode revolves around a conference focusing on pain hosted by Pontopidan while Karen is aided by the attendant Balder (Nicolas Bro) to become a patient in the neurosurgery ward where she meets the nurse Camilla who is haunted by the presence of an evil figure who has arrived in the Grand Duc (Willem Dafoe) who learns what Karen is trying to do.

The third episode Big Brother relates to the character and his whereabouts along with the whereabouts of Mona and the remains of Mrs. Drusse at swamp underneath the hospital as Karen realizes her mission as they find Judith Petersen who is given a chance to redeem herself. Even as she would also get the antidote that Helmer’s father had to get Hook out of his cruel state as he had been banished from the hospital due to what happened at the end of the second season. Helmer meanwhile gets the ire of Naver following a surgery where it was performed on Karen instead of a different patient as Helmer endured an act of humiliation because of Denmark’s strange approach to justice that forces him to get revenge for himself and his father upon learning what happened to his father. The fourth episode Barbarossa is about Helmer’s plan for revenge with help from Anna, the computer technician/hacker Kalle (Ida Engvall) and the kitchen worker Bosse (David Dencik) in committing acts of terrorism through small means. Having saved Big Brother during a massive heart surgery, Judith reunites with her son while Karen brings in a box of blocks for Mona who finishes her message that unveils a massively shocking revelation for Helmer.

Its finale entitled Exodus is the culmination of everything as Helmer’s plan to take over failed due to this revelation with Anna being punished and humiliated forcing the two to quit the Kingdom. Even as Karen and Balder deal with their doppelgangers with Hook’s help in his own quest for redemption as they make some discoveries about the location of the Kingdom just as the Grand Duc does whatever he can to stop them. Even as chaos looms all over the hospital as the Grand Duc awaits the arrival of his master. It all plays into this event for the entire series as its ending is pure von Trier not just in this idea of death but also a cruel fate for a key character of the entire series.

The direction of von Trier is definitely stylish though it opens in a letterboxed presentation with full colors where Karen watches Riget II at home complaining about its ending only to later wake up and arrive at the Kingdom where the aspect ratio changes to a 1:66:1 aspect ratio with sepia-drenched colors to return to the look of the entire series. The direction, with additional work by Christian E. Christiansen, is presented with a lot of hand-held cameras with some slanted camera angles but also some unique tracking shots with its emphasis on wide shots to get a scope of the hospital as a whole along with shots of the locations with the bridge that borders Denmark and Sweden. There are also medium shots and close-ups that do play into von Trier’s vision including the scenes that mirror moments from the previous seasons including two characters in the dishwashers in the midget-like male dishwasher (Jesper Sorensen) and a female robotic arm (voice of Jasmine Junker) who both serve as a Greek chorus of sorts as, like their predecessors, are the smartest people in the entire building.

The direction also has von Trier play into many things that relates to the miniseries and himself such as a scene of Anna trying to seduce Helmer only to later sue him for sexual harassment in The Congress Dances as well as a humiliating event in the elevator in Barbarossa where Anna jumps over the sight of a snake with her pants falling down and Helmer catching her with many believing Helmer is raping her. It plays into many of von Trier’s own accusations in sexual harassment as Helmer is someone that doesn’t want to offend any woman or do the wrong thing but is often put in compromising situations that doesn’t make himself any better as he turns to the Swedish attorney as it is told with a lot of humor. The series has von Trier continuing many gags as it relates to director Bob trying to play Solitaire on his computer while dealing with warts, wasteful liquids, and issues with another hospital in Copenhagen that has a proton accelerator.

By the time it reaches the finale, there are these elements that doesn’t just play into Sweden’s issues with Denmark as it plays into this sense of superiority from the former towards the latter but also the fact that the latter have a weird idea of justice and such where those who are punished are put into the stocks and get kicked in the ass. It would add to not just Helmer’s hatred of the Danes as he would say the words that his father often said at the end of every episode from the past but he would gain an ally in Anna who too would be humiliated by the Danes. It all plays into locations where von Trier would use it for this major climatic moment but there are a lot of things as it relates to the hospital’s origins with the Grand Duc wanting to destroy all no matter who it is. All of which has him awaiting the arrival of his master who does unveil himself as it has this dark sense of humor while its final shot post-credit is also a form of humor as it plays into everything that had happened. Overall, von Trier crafts a fucking insane, horrifying, disgusting, and hilarious TV mini-series about a hospital where a lot of bad shit goes on with an old woman trying to uncover its mystery as well as deal with some bad people.

Cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro does brilliant work with the miniseries’ cinematography from the usage of stylish lights and colors for the first episode’s cold open to the sepia-drenched look of the entire series with its emphasis on available light including for many of the scenes set at night. Editors Olivier Bugge Coutte, Jacob Secher, Schulsinger, and My Thordal do excellent work with the editing with its usage of straight cuts, some jump-cuts to play into some of the chases and other bits that add style to the entire miniseries. Production designer Simone Grau Roney and art director Cecilia Hellner do amazing work with the look of the interiors as well as the designs of some of the new places such as the corridors that lead to the swamp and the rooms/offices of the doctors. Costume designer Manon Rasmussen does nice work with the look of the costumes from the refined look of Helmer to the more casual look of everyone else in the miniseries that also include Santa hats.

Prosthetics and makeup effects designer Love Larson does nice work with the look of a few characters with Big Brother being the most notable as well a few mysterious characters including the design of a discovery that Kalle and Balder found. The visual effects by Laurent Ravicini and Peter Hjorth is terrific as it play into some of the supernatural elements including the scenes in the swamp. Sound designer Eddie Simonsen does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the locations and in the rooms as well as the sounds of ghosts and natural disasters that would occur throughout the miniseries. The miniseries’ music consists of score pieces from the previous series by Joachim Holbek including its main theme as it also include some classical pieces and contemporary music with some of it played on location as well as a score piece performed by Eduard Artmeyev as a homage to the film Solaris.

The miniseries’ ensemble cast is great as it feature some notable small roles and guest appearances from Solbjorg Hojfeldt as the nurse Camilla who is haunted by words relating to the Grand Duc, Jesper Sorensen and Jasmine Junker as the dishwaters who serve as the Greek chorus for the series, David Dencik as a kitchen worker who is part of the Swedes Anonymous group, Peter Mygind as Morten “Mogge” Moesgaard as a doctor who works in the hospital though there’s questions about his fate at the end of the second miniseries, Soren Pilmark as Jorgen “Hook” Krogshoj who has been banished from the main hospital grounds as he’s been grouchy and disdainful until an anecdote brought him back to his old self as he would help Karen and Balder, Brigitte Raaberg as Judith Petersen as a former neurosurgeon turned cardiologist who laments over the loss of her son until she gets a chance to redeem herself and reunite with him, Ghita Norby as Helmer Sr.’s widow Rigmor Mortensen as a former doctor who annoys Pontopidan in the elevators while being amputated as she meets Helmer about his father, Birthe Neumann as the secretary Fru Svendsen who tries to keep things in bay as she endures the chaos that is going on, and Laura Christensen as a brain-damaged patient of Helmer Sr. in Mona who is in a swamp as she is eager to finish her message about Helmer Sr.

Henning Jensen is terrific as director Bob who deals with a lot of things as he hopes to be better than a rival hospital while trying to master Solitaire despite some difficulty. Udo Kier is superb as Big Brother as Judith’s deformed son who has been drowning on his tears as he is dying while he also copes with the terror in the hospital as it relates to where it was built. Alexander Skarsgard is fantastic in his small role as the Swedish attorney as he takes over his father’s practice by doing things in a bathroom as he deals with his clients but also his disdain for the Danes. Ida Engvall is excellent as the Swedish computer technician/hacker Kalle who also harbors disdain towards the Danes but is also someone who can get things done while Nikolaj Lie Kaas is hilarious as the irritable Naver as a surgeon who is often annoyed and lashes out while he also does something disgusting with his eye that disgusts people. Lars Mikkelsen is brilliant as Pontopidan as the hospital floor manager who deals with insomnia as he loves to sleep on a bag of peas while also coping with a lot of the chaos where he prefers not to be confrontational.

Willem Dafoe is incredible as the Grand Duc as this mysterious evil figure who is an agent of chaos as he does what he can to stop Karen while creating doppelgangers of her and Balder as a way to stop them with Dafoe also speaking Danish throughout the series. Tuva Novotny is great as Anna as a Swedish nurse who hides her background as she tries to seduce Helmer but through awkward means as she would sue him and such only to get into trouble of her own as well as trying to hold on to her pants. Mikael Persbrandt is phenomenal as Stig Helmer Jr. as a renowned Swedish surgeon who arrives in Denmark only to deal with a lot of things that upset him as he learns more about his father and why his father hates the Danes where he brings a lot of wit to his performance. Nicolas Bro is sensational as Balder as an attendant, who is called Bulder by many in reference to the character from the series, who helps Karen with her quest while dealing with the chaos at the hospital despite some of his clumsiness and such. Finally, there’s Bodil Jorgensen in a tremendous performance as Karen as a sleepwalker who also has a personality in which she speaks in another voice where she goes to the hospital to finish Mrs. Drusse’s mission where she learns about the hospital as well as the evil forces in the hope she can save it despite the many obstacles she goes through.

Riget: Exodus is an outstanding TV miniseries from Lars von Trier. Featuring a great cast, eerie visuals, a great mixture of suspense and dark humor, and giving audiences of the previous miniseries a fitting conclusion. It is a miniseries that doesn’t just play into the world of terror, hospital dramas, and other weird shit but it also a miniseries that all play into the world of death and the inevitable as it relates to death. If this miniseries is to become Lars von Trier’s final project due to his Parkinson’s disease, then what a way to go out. In the end, Riget: Exodus is a magnificent TV miniseries from Lars von Trier.

Lars von Trier Films: The Element of Crime - Epidemic - Medea (1988 TV film) - Europa - The Kingdom - Breaking the Waves - The Kingdom II - Dogme #2: Idioterne - Dancer in the Dark - Dogville - The Five Obstructions - Manderlay - The Boss of It All - Antichrist - Dimension (2010 short) - Melancholia - Nymphomaniac - The House That Jack Built - (Etudes)

Related: Favorite Films #3: Breaking the Waves - The Auteurs #7: Lars von Trier

© thevoid99 2023


Brittani Burnham said...

I CAN'T with Lars Von Trier, but I'm glad this worked for you!

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-I know he is polarizing figure to many and some think he is indeed Satan but.... he's my Satan and I will gladly take a bullet for him.