The Kingdom (miniseries)

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The Kingdom
The title screen for Riget
Also known asThe Kingdom II
The Kingdom: Exodus
DanishRiget, Riget II, Riget: Exodus
GenreAbsurdist comedy
Black comedy
Medical drama
Psychological drama
Supernatural horror
Created byLars von Trier and Tómas Gislason
Written byLars von Trier (seasons 1-3)
Niels Vørsel (seasons 1-3)
Tómas Gislason (season 1)
Directed byLars von Trier (seasons 1-3)
Morten Arnfred (seasons 1-2)
Country of originDenmark
Original languagesDanish
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes13
Executive producersSvend Abrahamsen (season 1-2)
Peter Aalbæk Jensen (season 1)
Vibeke Windeløv (season 2)
ProducersOle Reim (season 1)
Bosse Lindquist (season 2)
Louise Vesth (season 3)
CinematographyEric Kress
EditorsMolly Malene Stensgaard
Jacob Thuesen
Pernille Bech Christensen
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time58-78 minutes
Production companiesARTE
Danmarks Radio (DR)
Original release
NetworkDanmarks Radio
Release24 November 1994 (1994-11-24) –
30 October 2022 (2022-10-30)
Kingdom Hospital

Riget (English title: The Kingdom) is a Danish absurdist supernatural horror miniseries trilogy created by Lars von Trier and Tómas Gislason. Set in the neurosurgical ward of Copenhagen's Rigshospitalet (lit.'The National Hospital', nicknamed "Riget", lit.'the realm' or 'the kingdom'), each episode of the show follows the hospital's eccentric staff and patients as they encounter bizarre and sometimes supernatural phenomena. The series 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 main theme's song was written by von Trier himself.

The first series of four episodes premiered from DR in November to December 1994, and was followed by a second series, Riget II, which aired in November 1997. A belated third and final series of five episodes directed by von Trier and written by von Trier with Niels Vørsel, entitled Exodus, began filming in 2021,[1][2] was screened out of competition at the Venice Film Festival and at the Serial Killer festival in September 2022,[3][4] and premiered in the Nordics on streaming platform Viaplay with the first two episodes on October 9. The series premiered in select regions between November 27 and December 25 on streaming platform MUBI.[5]

Von Trier has credited David Lynch's 1990 television series Twin Peaks and the 1965 French miniseries Belphegor as inspirations for the series.[6] The Kingdom itself inspired an American series, Kingdom Hospital, developed by novelist Stephen King; the American version aired on ABC between March and July 2004, and was cancelled after a single season.

Plot synopsis[edit]

Each episode of all three series opens 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 (Kirsten Rolffes), 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 and ultimately finds it preserved in a specimen jar in the office of the hospital's professor of pathology, Professor Bondo (Baard Owe).

Meanwhile, neurosurgeon Stig Helmer (Ernst-Hugo Järegård), 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. Palle Bondo (Baard Owe) attempts to convince the family of a man dying from liver cancer to donate his liver to the hospital for Bondo's research. (In fact, Bondo wants it as a trophy, as it is the second largest hepatosarcoma ever recorded.) When denied, Bondo has the cancerous liver transplanted into his own body (as the patient 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 Helmer screams his famous catchphrase: "Danskjävlar!" (subtitled as "Danish scum", but literally "Danish devils").

In the third series, Exodus, sleepwalker Karen Svensson finds herself at Rigshospitalet, investigating the fallout of the fatal power outage at the end of the second series. Exodus also introduces Dr. Helmer, Jr. (Mikael Persbrandt), the neurotic son of the late Stig Helmer, and a new addition to the staff of Riget.[7] Helmer Jr. is threatened with a lawsuit after making sexual advances to a female colleague in the hospital, has to consult a Swedish lawyer (Alexander Skarsgard), son of the lawyer from season 2..[3]


Ernst-Hugo Järegård as Stig Helmer, a Dane-hating Swedish doctor
German actor Udo Kier (pictured in 2018) appears in a dual role as the antagonist Åge Krüger, and his infant son Little Brother
Actor Character Season
I II Exodus
Søren Pilmark Jørgen 'Hook' Krogshøj Main
Ghita Nørby Rigmor Mortensen Main
Birgitte Raaberg Judith Petersen Main
Peter Mygind Morten 'Mogge' Moesgaard Main
Ernst-Hugo Järegård Stig Helmer Main Archive
Kirsten Rolffes Sigrid Drusse Main Archive
Holger Juul Hansen Einar Moesgaard Main Archive
Jens Okking Bulder Harly Drusse Main Archive
Baard Owe Palle Bondo Main Archive
Bodil Jørgensen Karen Svensson Does not appear Main
Nicolas Bro Balder 'Bulder' Does not appear Main
Nikolaj Lie Kaas Filip Naver Does not appear Main
Lars Mikkelsen Pontopidan Does not appear Main
Mikael Persbrandt Stig Helmer Jr. Does not appear Main
Tuva Novotny Anna Does not appear Main
Ida Engvoll Kalle Does not appear Main
Otto Brandenburg Hansen Main Does not appear
Annevig Schelde Ebbe Mary Krüger Recurring Archive
Udo Kier Åge Krüger (human incarnation of Satan)
Little Brother / Frederik / Big Brother (the Antichrist)
Vita Jensen Female dishwasher Main Does not appear
Morten Rotne Leffers [da] Male dishwasher Main Does not appear
Jasmine Junker Female dishwasher Does not appear Main
Jesper Sørensen Male dishwasher Does not appear Main
Solbjørg Højfeldt Camilla Recurring Guest
Birthe Neumann Fru Svendsen Does not appear Recurring
Erik Wedersøe Ole Does not appear Main Does not appear
John Hahn-Petersen Secretary Nivesen Does not appear Recurring Does not appear
Henning Jensen [af; ar; da; de; sv] Director Bob Recurring
Laura Christensen Mona Jensen Recurring
Vera Gebuhr Gerda Does not appear Guest Does not appear
Ole Boisen [af; da] Christian Recurring Does not appear
Louise Fribo Sanne Jeppesen Recurring Does not appear
Nis Bank-Mikkelsen [af; da; de; sv] Chaplain Guest Does not appear
Thomas Bo Larsen Falkon Does not appear Guest Does not appear
Henrik Koefoed Radiologist Guest Does not appear
Paul Hüttel Steenbæk Guest
Helle Virkner Emma Mogensen Guest Does not appear
Stellan Skarsgård The Swedish Lawyer Does not appear Guest Does not appear
Alexander Skarsgård The Swedish Lawyer's Son Does not appear Guest
David Dencik Bosse Does not appear Guest
Willem Dafoe Grand Duc Does not appear Guest
Lars von Trier Himself


Riget: Exodus (2022)[edit]

In December 2020, Danmarks Radio announced that a third and final season, consisting of five episodes directed by von Trier and co-written by von Trier alongside original series co-writer Niels Vørsel, would begin filming in 2021 under the title Riget: Exodus.[2] The same year, von Trier began showing symptoms of Parkinson's disease during an interview with Christian Lund of Louisiana Channel;[8] afterwards, he continued to work while taking medication. Von Trier did not watch "all the old ones" before beginning work on Riget: Exodus, and had tried "to get rid of the ties from the old stuff", with the focus being on the characters.[9]

Returning cast members Ghita Nørby, Søren Pilmark, Peter Mygind, Birgitte Raaberg, Laura Christensen and Udo Kier are joined by newcomers Bodil Jørgensen, Nicolas Bro, Lars Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Mikael Persbrandt, Tuva Novotny, Ida Engvoll, Asta August, David Dencik and Alexander Skarsgard.[10][11][12][13][14] Von Trier had a "rotten time" filming the series, as he suffered from the effects of Parkinson's disease during the shoot, but hoped the actors "didn't notice".[9]

In September 2022, Exodus (presented as a "five hour feature-length film")[9] screened out of competition at the 79th Venice International Film Festival, alongside Nicolas Winding Refn's miniseries Copenhagen Cowboy.[3]


SeriesEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
1424 November 199415 December 1994
2410 October 199731 October 1997
359 October 202230 October 2022

Riget (1994)[edit]

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
1"Den hvide flok (The Unheavenly Host)"Lars von Trier, Morten ArnfredLars von Trier, Niels Vørsel, Tómas Gislason24 November 1994 (1994-11-24)
Mrs Drusse, a hypochondriac psychic, gets herself admitted to the Kingdom because she believes the hospital is haunted. Meanwhile, Dr Helmer, a Dane-hating Swede under investigation for malpractice, joins the hospital's secret brethren.
2"Alliancen kalder (Thy Kingdom Come)"Lars von Trier, Morten ArnfredLars von Trier, Niels Vørsel, Tómas Gislason1 December 1994 (1994-12-01)
Mrs Drusse continues her investigation, Krogshøj steals the severed head from Mogge and uses it to blackmail him, while Bondo is at his wits' end when a patient's relative refuses to hand over his liver, which is infected with a rare cancer.
3"Et fremmed legeme (A Foreign Body)"Lars von Trier, Morten ArnfredLars von Trier, Niels Vørsel, Tómas Gislason8 December 1994 (1994-12-08)
Dr Helmer decides to steal the incriminating report but unbeknownst to him, Krogshøj has the same plan, Bondo wants to transplant the cancerous liver into himself, and Mrs Drusse finds out Mary didn't die of tuberculosis as reported.
4"De levende døde (The Living Dead)"Lars von Trier, Morten ArnfredLars von Trier, Niels Vørsel, Tómas Gislason15 December 1994 (1994-12-15)
Helmer goes to Haiti which angers his gun-wielding girlfriend, Judith may be pregnant with a ghost, Mrs Drusse reburies Mary's remains but her troubles are only just beginning, and Operation Morning Breeze turns into a farcical disaster.

Riget II (1997)[edit]

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
5"Mors in Tabula (Death on the Operation Table)"Lars von Trier, Morten ArnfredLars von Trier, Niels Vørsel10 October 1997 (1997-10-10)
Helmer returns from Haiti with the zombie poison, but has trouble administering it, Mrs Drusse is back in the Kingdom after being struck by a van, and Judith has to learn to love her deformed son.
6"Trækfuglene (Birds of Passage)"Lars von Trier, Morten ArnfredLars von Trier, Niels Vørsel17 October 1997 (1997-10-17)
Mrs Drusse has a new spiritual mystery to solve, and Judith continues to care for her deformed son, now named Little Brother. Meanwhile, Helmer attempts to administer the antidote for the poison to Kroshgøj before it’s too late, as to avoid another legal conundrum.
7"Gargantua"Lars von Trier, Morten ArnfredLars von Trier, Niels Vørsel24 October 1997 (1997-10-24)
Krogshøj is revived but different than before, Christian becomes the new Falcon, the Little Brother wants to die, and Mrs Drusse learns of Age Krüger’s form as a demon. Inspired by her son's dream, she takes a flight around the hospital.
8"Pandæmonium"Lars von Trier, Morten ArnfredLars von Trier, Niels Vørsel31 October 1997 (1997-10-31)
Helmer, blackmailed into marriage by Rigmor, kidnaps Mona, Krogshøj considers eugenics, Mrs Drusse discovers a satanic sect beneath the hospital, Judith won't let her son die, Bondo finds his half-brother, and Christian races blind.

Riget: Exodus (2022)[edit]

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
9"Halmar"Lars von TrierLars von Trier, Niels Vørsel9 October 2022 (2022-10-09)
A mysterious voice calls upon the sleep walker, Karen, during a nightmare. The Kingdom is in need of her assistance, and at the hospital, she finds an ally in the porter, Bulder.
10"The Congress Dances"Lars von TrierLars von Trier, Niels Vørsel9 October 2022 (2022-10-09)
Karen has a new vision that could possibly aid her in locating the voice. At The Kingdom, preparations are being made for the annual pain congress, but it seems that the demon, Grand Duc, is on the guest list.
11"Big Brother"Lars von TrierLars von Trier, Niels Vørsel16 October 2022 (2022-10-16)
Karen locates the spiritual core of The Kingdom. Helmer discovers what he was looking for at the hospital, but after a violent clash with Naver, he realizes that things do not always proceed according to plan.
12"Barbarossa"Lars von TrierLars von Trier, Niels Vørsel23 October 2022 (2022-10-23)
Karen attempts to solve the task that was given to her, but evil forces work against her and Bulder. Helmer has had it with the Danish stupidity and plans an act of terrorism against the Danes and The Kingdom itself.
13"Exodus"Lars von TrierLars von Trier, Niels Vørsel30 October 2022 (2022-10-30)
Karen, Krogen and Bulder are fighting against the clock. The time has come to clean The Kingdom of all evil spirits once and for all, but much can still go wrong.


The four-episode first series of Riget was aired by Danish broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR) from 24 November to 15 December 1994. The English subtitled version The Kingdom aired in the United Kingdom on BBC Two from 1 to 9 April 1997.

The four-episode second series, Riget II, aired on DR between 10 and 31 October 1997. The English subtitled version The Kingdom II aired in the United Kingdom on BBC Two from 28 July to 1 September 2001.

The five-episode third series, Riget: Exodus, premiered on streaming platform MUBI on 27 November 2022, with its fifth and final episode premiering on Christmas Day.[5]

Home media[edit]

The series was edited into a five-hour, two-part film, which received some theatrical exhibition, and was released on home video in America and the United Kingdom.[15] It is available on DVD in Australia and New Zealand on Madman Entertainment's Directors Suite label, in the UK from Second Sight, and in the US from Koch-Lorber Films.[16]


Newly restored HD[citation needed] editions of the first two series premiered on MUBI on 13 November and 20 November 2022, respectively; the debut of the restored series was followed by the premiere of Exodus on the platform on 27 November.


Critical reception[edit]

On Metacritic, all three seasons has a weighted average score of 77 out of 100 from nine reviews.[17]

I and II[edit]

Film critic Leonard Maltin, who reviewed the two-part theatrical version, awarded it three and a half out of a possible four stars, calling it "a must-see for those who think they've seen everything".[18]

Despite being a miniseries, The Kingdom appears in the best-selling book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, where it is called "a medical horror epic", with its supernatural elements described as being both eerie and magical.[19]


Lars von Trier at the Berlin Film Festival in 2014.

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the third season has an approval rating of 86% based on 21 reviews, with an average rating of 6.80/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "An acquired taste for newcomers and comfort weirdness for Lars von Trier's devotees, The Kingdom: Exodus is a cheeky delicacy infused with cosmic horror that reaches biblically insane proportions."[20]

Exodus was well received by critics following its premiere at the Venice in September 2022, with Variety calling it "over-the-top" and "fun",[7] and the Italian Post praised the series, saying it "amuses and disturbs", and comparing it positively to Twin Peaks.[21] The Upcoming gave the series 3/5, praising its "dark humour" and noting that it feels like a "tribute to Lars von Trier's career, a revisiting of his early work... filled with the wobbly handheld shots that distinguished the Dogme 95 movement".[22] Giving it 3/5 stars, The Guardian called the series "a nightmarish revue, peppered with familiar faces in brief walk-on roles", and said that it is "fun to a point and richly textured to a fault, with a plot that’s entirely driven by what has gone before".[23]


Award Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
1995 Bodil Awards Best Danish Film Riget Won [24]
Best Actor Ernst-Hugo Järegård Won
Best Actress Kirsten Rolffes Won
Best Supporting Actor Holger Juul Hansen Won
30th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Crystal Globe Riget Nominated [25]
Best Director Award Lars von Trier Won
Best Actor Award Ernst-Hugo Järegård Won
12th Robert Awards Best Actor in a Leading Role Won [24]
Best Actress in a Leading Role Kirsten Rolffes Won
Best Screenplay Lars von Trier, Niels Vørsel [da] Won
Best Cinematography Eric Kress Won
Best Score Joachim Holbek [da] Won
Best Sound Design Per Streit Won
Seattle International Film Festival Golden Space Needle Award for Best Film Riget Won [citation needed]
1996 Adolf Grimme Awards Series/Miniseries Lars von Trier Won [citation needed]
1996 Golden Cable Awards Bronze Cable for Innovation Won [citation needed]
1996 Bodil Awards Best Actor Holger Juul Hansen Won [26]
Best Supporting Actress Birgitte Raaberg Won
1999 Fantasporto Best Screenplay Lars von Trier, Morten Arnfred Won [27]
Best Director Lars von Trier Won
40th Robert Awards Best TV Series Lars von Trier, Niels Vørsel, and Louise Vesth (producer) Nominated [28]
Best Actor in a Leading Role - TV series Mikael Persbrandt Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role - TV series Bodil Jørgensen Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Leading Role - TV series Lars Mikkelsen Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Leading Role - TV series Tuva Novotny Nominated

American adaptation[edit]

Horror novelist Stephen King discovered the five-hour theatrical edit of Riget in a video store during production of the 1997 TV miniseries adaptation of The Shining,[15] and, finding it "both funny and scary",[29] promptly set out to obtain the rights to the series for an American adaptation. At that time, the rights were owned by Columbia Pictures, who had intended to adapt the series as a two-hour theatrical film. King negotiated with Columbia for the rights, ultimately exchanging them for the option to his novella "Secret Window, Secret Garden" (which Columbia adapted in 2004 as the feature film Secret Window).[15]

King's thirteen episode television adaptation, titled Kingdom Hospital, broadcast between March and July 2004 on ABC. Often directly adapting storylines from the original series, Kingdom Hospital was set in a hospital in Lewiston, Maine, which was on the site of a mill built before the Civil War. Many character names were derived from their Danish equivalents, e.g., Sigrid Drusse became Sally Druse and Stig Helmer became Dr. Stegman. In a departure from the plot of Riget, the American series introduces a new protagonist, a comatose patient, Peter Rickman, inspired by King's own experience of being hit by a minivan,[15] and a talking giant anteater, the spirit guide Anubis/Antubis.

Although King and co-writer Richard Dooling developed an outline for a second series, ratings dropped throughout the season. Kingdom Hospital was placed on indefinite hiatus following a "major network shake-up", and was never picked up for a second series.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pham, Annika (17 December 2020). "Lars von Trier prepares The Kingdom Exodus for Viaplay/DR". Nordisk Film & TV Fond. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  2. ^ a b Møller Hansen, Lars (17 December 2020). "'Riget' vender tilbage". DR. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Macnab2022-09-05T09:40:00+01:00, Geoffrey. "Lars von Trier talks 'The Kingdom: Exodus', cancel culture and teasing Sweden". Screen. Retrieved 16 September 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Brizi, Ilaria (5 September 2022). "5th Serial Killer Festival Brings Exclusive Previews of Major TV Series To Brno Screens". Brno Daily. Retrieved 6 October 2022.
  5. ^ a b Lattanzio, Ryan (29 September 2022). "'The Kingdom Exodus' Trailer: Lars von Trier Is Up to His Old Tricks Again". IndieWire. Retrieved 1 October 2022.
  6. ^ Mars-Jones, Adam (28 December 1995). "All stitched up – well, nearly". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  7. ^ a b Debruge, Peter (1 September 2022). "'The Kingdom Exodus' Review: Lars von Trier Is Back to His Old Tricks, Unleashing Hell on a Danish Hospital". Variety. Retrieved 2 October 2022.
  8. ^ Lars von Trier: The Burden From Donald Duck, 23 December 2020, retrieved 16 October 2022
  9. ^ a b c "Danish director Von Trier getting used to life with Parkinson's". Reuters. 1 September 2022. Retrieved 2 October 2022.
  10. ^ Stiesen, Henriette (17 May 2021). "Von Triers kultserie 'Riget' vender tilbage: Nu løftes sløret for stjernespækket rolleliste". DR. Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  11. ^ Keslassy, Elsa (2 June 2021). "Lars Von Trier's 'The Kingdom' Adds Danish Stars Lars Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas to Cast". Variety. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  12. ^ Bjerre, Britta (12 July 2021). "Birgitte Raaberg: Jeg tror aldrig, jeg bliver træt af det". Femina. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  13. ^ Feder, Michael (11 August 2021). "Mona og Lillebror er tilbage i Lars von Triers RIGET EXODUS" (PDF). Zentropa. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  14. ^ Roxburgh, Scott (9 September 2021). "Alexander Skarsgard to Guest-Star in Lars Von Trier's 'The Kingdom Exodus'". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  15. ^ a b c d Devine, James (24 June 2017). "The Graveyard: Digging up Stephen King's 'Kingdom Hospital'". 1428 Elm. Retrieved 2 October 2022.
  16. ^ "Classic Films on DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand". Second Site Films. UK.
  17. ^ The Kingdom (Riget), retrieved 16 October 2022
  18. ^ Leonard Maltin (3 September 2013). Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Publishing Group. p. 760. ISBN 978-1-101-60955-2.
  19. ^ Stephen Jay Schneider (2005). 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, 6th edition. ISBN 978-1-4380-6814-5.
  20. ^ The Kingdom Exodus, retrieved 5 November 2022
  21. ^ ItalianPostNews (1 September 2022). "RIget Exodus, the review of the TV series by Lars Von Trier out of competition in Venice 79". Italian Post. Retrieved 2 October 2022.
  22. ^ Sondermann, Selina. "Venice Film Festival 2022: The Kingdom: Exodus (Riget: Exodus) | Review". The Upcoming. Retrieved 2 October 2022.
  23. ^ "The Kingdom: Exodus review – return of Lars von Trier's cult hospital horror". the Guardian. 1 September 2022. Retrieved 2 October 2022.
  24. ^ a b Piil, M. (2008). Gyldendals danske filmguide (in Danish). Gyldendal. p. 469. ISBN 978-87-02-06669-2. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  25. ^ "History – 30th festival". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  26. ^ "Bodil Awards (1998)". IMDb. Retrieved 2 October 2022.
  27. ^ "Fantasporto (1999)". IMDb. Retrieved 2 October 2022.
  28. ^ "Danish Film Awards (Robert) (2023)". IMDb. Retrieved 11 February 2023.
  29. ^ a b February 01, Stephen King Updated; EST, 2007 at 05:00 AM. "Stephen King on the failure of Kingdom Hospital". Retrieved 2 October 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)

External links[edit]