Of course, it’s like another TV phenomenon. Von Trier admitted that The Kingdom was inspired by Twin Peaks, and one has to wonder if Exodus would exist without the creative success of 2017’s Twin Peaks: The Return. Much like David Lynch, Von Trier returns to some of the same characters and ideas with remastered characters and warped imagery from his groundbreaking series, once again creating a truly inspired blend of the surreal and comedic. The hospital, where every scene of the show takes place, is not only a place of ancient supernatural forces that could rise to eventually drag it into the earth, but it’s also a place of truly worldly idiocy, a building riddled with bureaucracy and bureaucracy is burdened stupidity as well as evil that could be buried in its foundations.
What is “The Kingdom” about? Well, that’s where it gets difficult. It’s the kind of over-the-top universe where a woman can give birth to Udo Kier in a form that sometimes resembles a traditional medical soap opera, but most of the doctors here are self-obsessed jerks. Exodus actually begins with a woman named Karen (Bodil Jørgensen) finishing a viewing of the first series and going to the hospital to see for herself what’s going on. She finds more questions than answers, including an actual hospital heart beating and Udo Kier’s giant head drowning in his own tears. Alexander Skarsgard takes over for his father in a very funny twist as a lawyer whose office is in the toilet and Willem Dafoe appears as a shapeshifter who could actually be Satan. That is much. And that really only scratches the surface.
Obviously it’s really quite difficult to do the “plot synopsis” part of a review of something like The Kingdom Exodus. While it technically has several competing subplots and a dense mythology, the plot here doesn’t play as much as the mood. It’s a show that has cumulative power in its moments – be it a weird little comedic beat like the chief doctor complaining his computer solitaire is too easy (not knowing that IT’s already on 4-8 years old or the frightening image of an aggressively violent doctor gouging his own eye out with a spoon (just so next time it’s back to normal). The Kingdom Exodus sometimes feels like its competing tones and subplots are at war with one another – whiplashing the broad farce of a broken system with the more horrific lynch elements of a woman exploring the hospital’s spiritual underground can be intense – but that is very intentional. Hospitals are places of extreme emotion where tragedy can coexist in a room alongside miraculous recovery. And von Trier has often played with broad tonal shifts with dark comedy throughout much of his filmography. The extremes of his taste find a perfect backdrop in the Kingdom Hospital.