Viewers’ enjoyment of the sequel series will depend on their affection for Lars Van Trier’s peculiarities.
Lars Von Trier is a complicated figure. The Danish director has ardent fans, fervent critics, and a whole host of international film watchers in-between. After 25 years of varying other projects, he returns to his favorite hospital in The Kingdom Exodus, the five-episode third and final season of his acclaimed supernatural series. The sepia-toned world hasn’t changed much, though, as Von Trier has gone through several scandals, health concerns, and personal challenges over the last two-and-a-half decades. His vision remains undeterred.
The Kingdom Exodus finds the director, with direct inspiration from David Lynch and Twin Peaks, setting out to finish something he started. Like his counterpart, Von Trier’s series hasn’t lost the mixture of comedy and horror that made it a must-watch for cinephiles. It might be the year’s funniest comedy, following inept doctors, lawyers with toilet offices, secret Swedish meetings, and an unlimited amount of dishes.
The series requires an open mind. It often doesn’t make much sense. It’s shakily shot. It makes fun of its own culture and its host country. But it’s never less-than-entertaining; it sweeps you up into a world of oddities and absurdities. Von Trier reminds audiences of the specific flavor of this manufactured world, a searing look at institutional failure filled with hooting performances from actors both known and unknown.
More familiar names like Willem Dafoe and Alexander Skarsgard, following in his father’s footsteps, pop up with bit parts, as Satan and the aforementioned toilet lawyer. At the same time, Mikael Persbrandt becomes a central delight, playing the lead doctor Helmer Jr. Persbrandt’s line deliveries only increase in amusement as the episodes roll on, acting with incompetence alongside the rest of his staff.
The plot of The Kingdom Exodus often feels like the most unimportant aspect of the series, especially with a particular departure from the 1990s characters and storylines. Von Trier creates an aura of bureaucratic idiocy combined with a love for the paranormal. Though not necessarily visually stunning, the show invests its time in character and mood, always containing a sense of unsuspecting dread.
Von Trier’s projects continue to endure, having the ability to become must-view experiences.
And Von Trier pops up at the end of every episode, his shoes the only part of his body seen on screen. The director infuses a meta nature to this third installment, beginning with a patient watching The Kingdom and believing it to be factual to a fault. Her storyline remains not nearly as interesting as that of the hospital works, though.
This third season still can falter, especially when Von Trier plays to his supernatural musings. Most of the series’ joy comes from the absurd monotony of this hospital, from pain conferences to drinking competitions. The dishwashing synopses remain a clever way to clue in the audience, even if it can seem needless at times. The length of the episodes, all clocking in around an hour long, struggles when the story loses structure and tact, as Von Trier hopes to play on corporate expectations many of us already hold.
Von Trier’s projects continue to endure, having the ability to become must-view experiences. His latest might fall just short of that bar, but it remains a highly hilarious ruckus with sincere, offbeat performances galore. His idiosyncrasies and his imagination are on full display in The Kingdom Exodus, for better or worse.
The Kingdom Exodus is available to stream on MUBI now.
The Kingdom Exodus Trailer: