The Kingdom (miniseries)

The Kingdom
Created by Lars von Trier
Country of origin Denmark
No. of episodes 8
Running time 1:12 (on average per episode)
Original network DR
Original release 1994 – 1997
Related shows Kingdom Hospital

The Kingdom (Danish title: Riget) is an eight-episode Danish television mini-series, created by Lars von Trier in 1994, and co-directed by Lars von Trier and Morten Arnfred. It has been edited together into a five-hour film for distribution in the United Kingdom and United States.

The series is set in the neurosurgical ward of Copenhagen's Rigshospitalet, the city and country's main hospital, nicknamed "Riget". "Riget" means "the realm" or "the kingdom" and leads one to think of "dødsriget", the realm of the dead. The show follows a number of characters, both staff and patients, as they encounter bizarre phenomena, both human and supernatural. The show is notable for its wry humor, its muted sepia colour scheme, and the appearance of a chorus of dishwashers with Down Syndrome who discuss in intimate detail the strange occurrences in the hospital.

The first quartet of episodes ended with numerous questions unanswered, and in 1997, the cast reassembled to produce another group of four episodes, Riget II (The Kingdom II).

This second series ended with even more questions unanswered than the first, and a third series was planned. However, due to the death in 1998 of Ernst-Hugo Järegård (who played Stig Helmer) and the subsequent death of Kirsten Rolffes (who played Mrs Drusse) in 2000, the likelihood of a third series is now very remote. Von Trier actually wrote the third and final season, but the production was not picked up by DR. At that point, five regular cast members had died and it seemed impossible to continue the series. The abandoned scripts were sent to the producers of Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital, but it is unclear whether they used the scripts or not.

Despite being a mini-series, it appears as one of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.


Each episode of Riget and Riget II begins with the same prologue, detailing how the hospital, Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, was built on the site of the "bleaching ponds", which recur in the name of the street of the hospital's official address, Blegdamsvej, although the exact significance of the reference is never explicitly discussed in the series.

The show begins with the admission of a spiritualist patient, Sigrid Drusse, who hears the sound of a girl crying in the elevator shaft. Upon investigation, Drusse discovers that the girl had died decades earlier, having been killed by her father to hide her illegitimacy. In order to put the spirit to rest, Drusse searches for the girl's body, ultimately finding it preserved in a specimen jar in the office of the hospital's professor of pathology, professor Bondo (Baard Owe).

Meanwhile, neurosurgeon Stig Helmer, a recent appointee from Sweden to the neurosurgery department, tries to cover up his responsibility for a botched operation which left a young girl in a persistent vegetative state.

Pathologist Dr. Bondo attempts to convince the family of a man dying from liver cancer to donate his liver to the hospital for his research. (In fact, he wants it as a trophy, it being the second largest hepatosarcoma ever recorded.) When his request is denied, Bondo has the cancerous liver transplanted into his own body (the patient having signed an organ donor form), so that the cancer will become his personal property and can be kept within the hospital.

Amongst other plotlines, a young medical student becomes attracted to the nurse in charge of the sleep research laboratory, a ghostly ambulance appears and disappears every night, a junior doctor runs a black market in medical supplies, and a neurosurgeon discovers that she was impregnated by a ghost and that the baby in her womb is developing abnormally rapidly. In every episode, two dishwashers (each with Down syndrome) in the cellar discuss the strange happenings at Riget, and Stig Helmer stands on the roof and screams his famous catchphrase: Danskjävlar (subtitled as "Danish scum", but "Danish bastards" or even "Danish assholes" might be nearer in meaning).




Riget II

Home media

It is currently available on DVD in the United States from Koch-Lorber Films, in the UK from Second Sight,[1] and on Madman Entertainment's Directors Suite label in Australia and New Zealand.

Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital

Main article: Kingdom Hospital

American horror writer Stephen King developed a thirteen-episode mini-series based on Riget, under the title Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital, which was broadcast in 2004. The plot retained many of the elements of Riget, transferring the location of the hospital to Lewiston, Maine, and placing it on the site of a mill built before the Civil War. Many of the characters derived their names from the Danish original (e.g. Sigrid Drusse became Sally Druse, Stig Helmer became Dr. Stegman). A significant difference in the American series was the introduction of the character of a talking giant anteater in the role of spirit guide/death/Anubis/Antubis.


See also


  1. THE KINGDOM I & II, Second Sight Films
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