Riget: Episoden 1 + 2
Lars von Trier, Denmark, 1994o
Strange things are happening at the royal hospital in Copenhagen. The hypochondriac patient Mrs. Drusse conducts spiritualistic sessions, the Swedish senior physician and Dane-hater Helmer covers up a botched operation, the chief pathologist hijacks diseased livers, the head physician prescribes "Operation Morning Air" for the staff, the lower batches bet on an ambulance that returns every night as a ghost driver, and a secret lodge meets in the basement. In addition, ghosts from the past make themselves known in the elevator shaft and from the hospital's swampy underground.
Thriller, black comedy, shrill satire, horror film? Where should we classify it, Lars von Trier's hospital series Riget (Ghosts or The Kingdom), which the director launched in 1994 and added a third season to after a creative break of 25 years? No need to worry, the series is all in one and in any case a striking example of the continuous creative thrust in which the erratic Dane helped shape European auteur cinema in the 1990s. The gritty two times four and a half hours of Riget I & II are perhaps von Trier's best work from that period. Tough realism, madcap comedy and the creepy mingle in a ludicrous tale about the royal hospital in Copenhagen, where obscurantism fights a rearguard action against the supposedly rationalist new gods in white coats. The cast is full of eccentric characters, and the continuing plot, still a rarity in the series world at the time, leaves no highs or lows untouched. The best thing about it all: Von Trier only ever threatens the ghostly gimmick and plays the keyboard of genres and our emotions as skillfully as maliciously.Andreas Furler