‘The Kingdom: Exodus‘ (Riget: Exodus, 2022) is the long-awaited final season of the surreal horror series from lars vontrier. In Spain it has arrived through filming to finally close his story after two decades of suspense. Presented in Cannes, it could be one of the last works of the director of ‘antichrist‘ (Antichrist, 2009) and although it is not up to par with his latest works for cinema, it could not be a more coherent work with his filmography.
The original series caused laughs and chills, even with some deranged body horror moments. Joachim Holbek’s theme song, with its insane rhythm and demonic choruses sums up what he offered. Partly a parody of the daytime hospital drama type ‘emergencies‘, part occult horrorpremiered in Denmark in 1994, with a four-episode second season released three years later, subsequently achieving cult status and spawning an American remake hosted by legendary writer Stephen King.
The two previous seasons are also on Filmin. They caused a great impact in Europe in the 90s and have been integrated as a way of learning about Von Trier’s attitude towards cinema, which he now completes with another five-episode miniseries, a late return of the director to the scene that continues to maintain his formula of costumbrista soap opera and terror in a Danish hospital called The Kingdom, built in a place where the battle between logic and the supernatural has raged for centuries.
The return of an eccentric series
The gigantic building in the center of Copenhagen is a temple of modernity and showcases the best of 21st century medical science, but it is built on a swamp, where clothes laundering was done and is filled with the ghost of dead workers who seem to outnumber the living. ‘The Kingdom Exodus’ begins, revealingly, with a character, Karen Svensson (Bodil Jørgensen), watching a clip of one of Von Trier’s direct-to-camera farewells from the original series, and shows us the director, young, before being the one we know today.
Since then, the filmmaker has established himself as one of the greatest provocateurs in auteur cinema. His career has had great milestones and great failures, he won the Palme d’Or, joked about sympathizing with Hitler, was kicked out of Cannes, invited back, has battled alcoholism and depression and has just been fired. diagnose Parkinson’sannouncing his retirement from making feature films, for which we are before what could be his farewell letter to audiovisual art.
Not so much has changed in his new hospital. It is modernized, with large revolving doors and bright rooms, one of the dishwashers that speak of the first two seasons has been replaced by a robot. Helmer Jr (Mikael Åke Persbrandt), the son of the grumpy Swedish surgeon from previous seasons, arrives by helicopter to take up his position as co-director of the room with Pontopidan (Lars Mikkelsen), intent on raising Danish standards and finding out what went wrong. that drove his father crazy.
the cursed hospital
Between staff meetings, operations and medical conferences, Karen and a doorman named Balder (Nicolas Bro) try to locate the spirits and the portal that will take them back to the afterlife. But Satan (Willem Dafoe) prowls the halls in a white robe and a red right hand, and together with his devotees will face the forces of good. ‘The Kingdom: Exodus’ it’s as if’Twin Peaks: The Return‘ happened in a haunted building to the ‘The glow‘, but engraved in the style and mounting of ‘The Office’with a return to the sepia tone that gives the iconic look of the original and maintains a solid consistency in the trilogy.
Von Trier maintains the Kafkaesque tone and absurd humor of the original, but now with a meta-cinematic layer, almost in the style of Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’, with characters who live having seen the previous two seasons and criticizing the director himself. Meanwhile, it shows diabolical visions in the midst of neurosurgery operations, enchantments in congress halls and summits of evil that represent the destructuring of Europe and the rise of the ultra-right, with a wildly unleashed Willem Dafoe as the evil one, more histrionic than in ‘The lighthouse‘.
Although some members of the original cast have not been able to return, the new cast of ‘The Kingdom: Exodus’ works perfectly, with cameos like Alexander Skarsgård and probably the appearance of the most unpredictable euro-horror icon Udo Kier imaginable, reverting to his trademark physical mutations in the series. There is also no shortage of esoteric horror, with satanic owls, doppelgängers, giant hearts and journeys through dimensions through secret corridors, but Von Trier places more emphasis on absurd humor and surreal situations.
A coherent swan song
Von Trier hurries his last hooliganism following the tradition of narrating his conclusions at the end of each episodewith corrosive comments on the struggle between Denmark and Sweden, science as a new religion and a look back at his continuing career with ‘jack’s house‘, although on this occasion he does not show his face and we only see his shoes behind the curtains, except for a quite emotional surprise appearance, knowing the director’s state of health.
Von Trier makes peace with his legacy while continuing to introduce the wrong with a freedom that serves as antidote to algorithmic content, a manifesto for intuitive storytelling and unpredictability, an increasingly rare rarity in jig productions. The finale finally concludes an ambitious project told through four different decades, with lyrical images and a last couple of sequences, one scathing and the other terrifying, that will be remembered when studying his filmography in the future.
‘The Kingdom: Exodus’ is not for everyone, it requires an acquired palate and rowing in favor of the whims of the Dane, in reality it is neither better nor worse than the previous installments, which despite its cult character are not are not more than an extravagant curiosity, which will delight lovers of the strange, but that can also become tiresome due to his particular sense of humor and his vocation to irritate the viewer. All in all, it has enough absurdity and irreverence to be a congruent closing with the work of its author.