The Kingdom (Riget) (1994)

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Released 8-Feb-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Behind The Scenes – The Kingdom (24:20)
Audio Commentary-Selected commentary by director Lars Von Trier, et al
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Outrageous Newspaper Commercials
DVD Credits
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 272:28 (Case: 278)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Morten Arnfred
Lars von Trier
Studio
Distributor
Zentropa Ent.
Madman Entertainment
Starring Ernst-Hugo Järegård
Kirsten Rolffes
Holger Juul Hansen
Søren Pilmark
Ghita Nørby
Jens Okking
Otto Brandenburg
Annevig Schelde Ebbe
Baard Owe
Birgitte Raaberg
Peter Mygind
Vita Jensen
Morten Rotne Leffers
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI $39.95 Music Joachim Holbek


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Danish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish for the Hearing Impaired
Swedish
Norwegian
Finnish
English
Romanian
Portuguese
Serbian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Lars Von Trier discussions

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    In the most technologically advanced hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, something rotten is at play. The Rigshospitalet (roughly translated, the Royal Hospital or Kingdom Hospital, hence the English translation title The Kingdom), or “Riget” as it is affectionately known to its resident staff, is plagued by a series of supernatural events – ghost ambulances arrive in the middle of the night then vanish, the elevators are haunted by eerie voices, and a pregnant staff member’s foetus is developing far faster than it should. As the intensity and frequency of these events begin to undermine the scientific monotheism of the doctors, some begin listening to the ramblings of an old mystic lady who talks of restive spirits and a building that cries.

    Earning itself an R18+ rating on DVD release (the significantly edited theatrical version that did the circuit briefly in Australia at arthouse cinemas in the mid 1990s only scored an M rating), we are finally provided with the full version as the director intended and was originally aired in Denmark – including the rat shooting sequence, which is likely to disgust many and offend plenty more. Does it deserve the R18+ moniker? I’m not sure. But it’s certainly graphically disturbing in places, perhaps compounded by the constant undercurrent of dark humour.

    Riget is Lars Von Trier’s Danish masterpiece. Far more accessible than many of his “Dogme 95” works, it set a benchmark for what could be done in a mini-series when unconstrained by general censorship. Forget adaptations of Stephen King novels for the small screen, Riget is creepy, and at times seriously scary, all these years on, while still maintaining that distinctive Northern European macabre sense of humour. What sets it apart from the usual horror tales is that Von Trier has definitely taken a page out of the David Lynch book of horror storytelling, and as a result Riget is largely the Danish answer to Twin Peaks – offbeat, quirky, funny, and decidedly original; a blend of soap opera melodrama, acerbic wit and, at times, genuine chills.

    This won’t be everybody’s cup of tea; plenty of people hate Von Trier’s style and lack of mainstream storytelling, even though this is pre-Dogme ’95 (don’t expect anything like Die Idiotern). What is more likely to upset, though, is the incomplete nature of the series. Originally conceived as a 13 part mini-series, the four episodes in this collection only represent about the first third of the series. The sequel, Riget II, only really gets you to the two-thirds mark, so from the outset, you know you’re not going to get the complete picture.

    Still, despite the investiture in time without a fully realised conclusion, this is highly addictive, and the moments in between are well worth the effort, even though we never get to the end that Von Trier envisaged.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Full Frame, non-16x9 enhanced (contrary to what the cover says), the remastering treatment this series has received is certainly not as good as that done with Twin Peaks, but there was also considerably less for the mastering crew to work with.

    Originally filmed on 16mm film, transferred to video for editing and special effects and then transferred back to 16mm, this print has gone through a lot to get to its final stages (for its theatrical release, it was transferred again to 35mm in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, but we have the original TV broadcast version here). As a result, on first broadcast it looked seriously grainy, soft, washed out and, dare I say it, ghostlike. This was, in fact, an intentional look of the show, and the process was repeated for the sequel.

    The DVD transfer seems to have coped quite well with all this playing around, preserving the original with all its washed out, sepia-toned charm and excessive graininess, minimal shadow detail, and limited colour-palette that is definitely lodged squarely in the brown spectrum (were there such a thing). Watching this on the big screen could sometimes strain the eyes a little, but for chill effect it was still the best way to go.

    There were several noticeable film artefacts, mostly a hair stuck on the print or dirt in the corners. In part of the famous lift sequence with Mrs Drusse halfway through the first episode there appears to be a tear in the print throughout the bottom right hand corner. There is some telecine wobble in the next lift sequence, though I cannot recall if this was just the camera shaking (whether intentional or not).

    The worst of the film-to-video artefacts is the constant white line down the left side of the 1.33:1 image present on 16:9 displays. If you’ve got a good enough system to crop those pixels, go ahead and do so – the white line can get a little distracting at times.

    Subtitles are available in the languages stated above. They are white with a grey / black border, though sometimes the border disappears and words can be a little hard to read. I can only assume that the English subtitles stay fairly true to the Danish/Swedish dialogue. What little I know of Danish was translated reasonably well.

    The dual layer pauses occur between each episode on each disc – very strategically placed to go unnoticed.

    In short, this transfer looks extremely messy, but that’s exactly how it’s meant to look, and so the faults are all transferred very well.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Audio is available in Danish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.

    This is a well-rounded and nicely balanced left right mix when you’re sitting in the “sweet spot” midway between your left and right front speakers at an appropriate distance back.

    There are a few decent audio cues across the front sound stage and some good ambient background noise. The whole thing was shot with a stereo boom mic positioned quite close to the camera by the sounds, and there is a fair bit of hissing and EM background hum. There is also the odd pop of static on the mic, but no serious drop outs.

    Dialogue is reasonably clear, but this has obviously not undergone extensive audio post production or ADR work.

    The rears and subwoofer were dormant for the duration of the series.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menus

    All menus are presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced. The main menus have audio from the first lift sequence from the first episode in 2.0 Dolby Stereo. The chapter selection menu has about 10 seconds of motion. The special features menu is a very cool interactive lift menu. One of the better menu designs I’ve seen for a while.

Audio Commentary: Selected commentary by director Lars Von Trier, scriptwriter Niels Vorsel and editor Molly Stensgaard (Disc 1 & 2)

    Presented in 1.33:1, 2.0 Dolby Stereo, this is a collection of 6 scenes (3 on each disc) with commentary by the director, scriptwriter and editor. Worth watching, and a far better idea than a movie long commentary full of drivel and blather.

Featurette: “Behind The Scenes – The Kingdom” (24:20) (Disc 1)

    Presented in 1.33:1, 2.0 Dolby Stereo soundtrack, this is a decent behind the scenes documentary.

Original Trailer (1:28) (Disc 2)

    Presented in 1.33:1 Full Frame, 2.0 Danish Dolby Stereo soundtrack and English Subtitles.

Featurette: “Outrageous Newspaper Commercials” directed by Lars Von Trier (Disc 2)

    Presented in 1.33:1, 2.0 Dolby Stereo soundtrack, this is a set of 8 commercials directed by Von Trier that were quite contentious in their time. Hilarious, though subtitles are a little hard to read at times because English subtitles are superimposed over Danish subtitles.

DVD Credits (Disc 2)

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R1 release is similar in terms of content of the series, but apparently has a fault in Episode 3 that is on all releases.

    The R2 UK version has the series split into 5 episodes as originally aired on UK TV. It also includes the documentary “Tranceformer: Portrait of Lars Von Trier” which is about 50 minutes long. It has been censored, however.

    The R2 Danish version released by Zentropa (Von Trier’s production company) appears to be the same as the R4 version in terms of content – the running time is identical, the show is uncensored, the special features are the same – including the extensive list of subtitles.

    Given the above, I would suggest that the R4 release is in fact a clone of the Danish version – particularly given the Zentropa credits on the R4 DVD, and the fact that it is uncut and has identical running times.

    Depending on region coding locks, I suggest buy whichever of the R2 Danish and R4 Australian releases you can find cheaper.

Summary

    Riget is quirky, creepy, and far less rambling than the adaptation by Stephen King for American audiences (though I did really enjoy that show too). Although it takes a little getting used to the washed out and grainy video, it really becomes part of the feel of the show after a while and normal video looks too vivid when you view it later. In short, twisted but highly entertaining.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Friday, June 01, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVPNS92, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-HS60 WXGA 3LCD Cineza Projector (10,000:1 contrast ratio) with 100" Longhom Pro-Series Micro-Textured White Matte PVC 1.78:1 16:9 Fixed Mount Screen with Black Velour Trim. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersJensen QX70 Centre Front, Jensen QX45 Left Front & Right Front, Jensen QX20 Left Rear & Right Rear, Jensen QX-90 Dual 10" 250 Watt Subwoofer

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