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The Kingdom Review

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The Kingdom was a hospital built as a sign of science's triumph over superstition. However, the staff and patients are alarmed when a child is heard crying above the lift. On a mission to fin the source of the sound, Mrs. Dreusse unleashes a sting of bizarre events.

★★★★

This startling amalgam of '50's ghost stories and ironic soap opera - released in an interval dissecting near five hour whole - was made originally as a four-part television series. But while David Lynch chose to illustrate his Twin Peaks series with paintbox colours and beautiful people, Danish director Lars Von Trier (Europa) has given the surreal movie genre a distinctly European tilt by opting for a real-life documentary style.

Von Trier charts the fates of a collection of staff and patients at The Kingdom, Copenhagen's general hospital. Constructed at the beginning of the century on the site of ancient bleaching ponds, the hospital was meant to celebrate science over superstition. Unknown to its human occupants, however, the victory was a supernatural one. After hearing a child crying above the lift, hypochondriac would be-spiritualist Mrs. Drusse (Rollfes) determines to track down the source. Her inquiries, in a world populated by a bizarre collection of characters and sub-plots, unleashes a string of bizarre events worthy of any Roald Dahl story.

The choice of a quasi-documentary style heightens the unease at the paranormal goings-on and the feeling is amplified through the clever use of repetition, rapid cross-cutting and a nervy handheld camera. Myriad revelations are carefully staggered to keep pace with our natural curiosity - only rarely are we any more informed than the characters - in a film which, despite its marathon length, is compelling enough to reel in a good-sized cult following.

Compelling enough to reel in a good-sized cult following.