50 Years of SIFF: The Kingdom I

The Kingdom I

Denmark | 1994 | 277 min. | Lars von Trier

November 18 - 19, 2023

50 Years of SIFF

Strange things are happening in the underbelly of a Danish hospital in Lars von Trier’s long unavailable cult TV phenomenon. Stunningly restored in never-before-seen versions, The Kingdom I is a wickedly funny supernatural mystery. 

The Kingdom 1 inaugurated Lars von Trier’s magnum opus, a cult TV phenomenon three decades in the making. Described by the director as “a ghost story spiced up with a few soap-like elements,” the series is Denmark’s answer to Twin Peaks: a compulsively entertaining supernatural mystery, charged with potent melodrama and populated with a recurring cast of endearing eccentrics. The Kingdom 1 is the first four episodes of the Danish TV series stitched together. In the film’s opening chapter (“The Unheavenly Host”) introduces us to the characters who inhabit the giant Copenhagen hospital known as the Kingdom—built on a marshy medieval burial ground—and informs us that “cracks are starting to appear in the edifice.” It soon becomes clear that these “cracks” are allowing the spirit world entrée into the hospital, pitting demonic forces against the arrogance of 20th-century science. Among the main characters in the emerging battle are Helmer, a Swedish neurosurgeon who loathes Danes and has turned a young girl, Mona, into a vegetable through a bungled brain operation; Mrs. Drusse, an old hypochondriac spiritualist who fakes illnesses to stay at the hospital and pursue her spiritual obsessions; a doctor, Hook, who runs a black market in medical supplies from the basement; Helmer’s lover Rigmor, an anesthetist who’s into Haitian voodoo; Hansen, a crazed researcher who’s determined to obtain a cancerous liver that’s still in the body of a patient; and Moesgaard, the ineffectual hospital director who presides over this bedlam. When Mona’s alter-ego—the ghost of a young girl murdered in 1919 by her father—begins to reappear, the hospital is ready to go to hell in the proverbial handbasket. And that’s just the beginning of this disturbing, darkly hilarious tale featuring soap-operatic plotting, hallucinogenic visuals, and the sure hand of a brilliant, iconoclastic director.

  • Original Language Title: Riget I
  • Director: Lars von Trier
  • Principal Cast: Ernst-Hugo Järegård, Kirsten Rolffes, Holger Juul Hansen, Søren Pilmark, Ghita Nørby
  • Country: Denmark, Sweden
  • Year: 1994
  • Running Time: 277 min.
  • Producer: Ole Reim
  • Screenplay: Lars von Trier
  • Cinematographers: Eric Kress
  • Editors: Molly Malene Stensgaard, Jacob Thuesen, Pernille Bech Christensen
  • Filmography: The House That Jack Built (2018), Nymphomaniac: Vol II (2013), Nymphomaniac: Vol I (2013), Melancholia (2011), Antichrist (2009), The Boss of It All (2006), Manderlay (2005), Dogville (2003), Dancer in the Dark (2000), The Idiots (1998), Breaking the Waves (1996), The Kingdom II (1998), The Kingdom I (1995), Europa (1991), Epidemic (1987)
  • Language: Danish