The Kingdom II

The Kingdom II ★★★


[Originally seen at NYFF '97; here's what I wrote then, though I'm less bothered now by the shift toward comedy and find the giant Udo-baby more poignant. On the other hand, I was more exasperated on second viewing by dull, seemingly dead-end subplots—the brethren, the ambulance races—so on balance it's the same mixed reaction. The movie/TV gods apparently took note of my concluding skepticism re: further installments and started killing off major cast members accordingly.]

[Also, I'll soon be revisiting the Sokurov film at which I took a passing swipe, so we'll see if that opinion holds.]

As much as I enjoyed the first installment of The Kingdom, the spooky-funny Danish soap opera directed by Lars von Trier and Morten Arnfred, I was a bit dismayed by the farcical turn that the story seemed to be taking in the waning moments of the final episode—a turn that seemed to me to undercut the nervous tension that its creators had worked so hard to establish. As I feared, The Kingdom II, consisting of episodes 5-8 from the TV series (yes, there are still more to come), continues in the same goofy vein; often hilarious, it's never so much as a fraction as eerie or disturbing as its predecessor, and I was consequently very conscious of its nearly five-hour running time (though it still seemed shorter than the 73-minute Mother and Son, above), whereas the first movie fairly whizzed by even on a recent second viewing. Those of you who saw The Kingdom are no doubt wondering, as I was, where Von Trier and co-screenwriter Niels Vorsel could possibly go with the (ahem) unusual plot twist that brought episode four to a (ahem) rather memorable climax; I won't reveal the answer, but suffice to say that it's both utterly bizarre and inappropriately maudlin—Basket Case meets Terms of Endearment is the best vague description that I can think of. The good news is that the entire principal cast is back, albeit now almost completely dominated by Ernst-Hugo Järegaard as Stig "Danish scum!" Helmer, who returns from Haiti even more enjoyably obnoxious than when he departed. His presence alone makes The Kingdom II an intermittent riot, and it's more or less a must-see for everybody who saw and enjoyed The Kingdom, if only because the first part inspired a curiosity so strong that it simply must be satisfied. But my expectations for The Kingdom III, due sometime around 2000, are considerably diminished, and I can't claim to be waiting for it with my breath a-bated.

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