"No living persons know it yet, but the gateway to the Kingdom is opening once again."
from the Opening Monologue
Riget ("The Realm") is a danish TV-series created and co-directed by the avant-garde filmaker, Lars von Trier. It roots in the Medical Drama genre, but it also contains copious amounts of surreal and Religious Horror, dark humor and supernatural events. Entirely filmed on location with hand-held cameras and grimy, sepia-tinted pictures, it has been described by critics as "Twin Peaks meets MASH".
The setting for the series is the eponymous Rigshospitalet (The National Hospital) in Copenhagen, with focus on the neurosurgical ward and it's employees and their somewhat mundane everyday life. But, as the Opening Narration expains, something strange is slowly infesting the old building, and it is growing stronger.
Mrs. Sigrid Drusse, an elderly lady with a keen interest in spiritualism, is trailing the source of the disturbances, begrudgingly helped by her son Bulder, who works as a porter at the hospital. Meanwhile war is brewing in the neurosurgical ward between the new, arrogant Dr. Helmer and the more down-to-earth Dr. Krogshøj (AKA Krogen (The Hook)). Helmer has recently botched an operation and is trying to hide the evidence, which will give Krogshøj the advantage. The Head of Department, Dr. Moesgaard is blissfully ignorant of all this as he is busy planning his great reform of the department "Operation Morning Air". Meanwhile his immature son Mogge runs afoul of his professor, the (madly) idealistic Dr. Bondo, after having stolen a head and used it for a prank. Dr. Bondo wants to get his hands on a rare tumor in dying Mr. Zakariassens liver. And when Mr. Zakariassens family says no, the good doctor is driven to desperate action.
And there is something strange about the pregnancy of Dr. Petersen ...
The series ran for two seasons before the death of two the main and one of the supporting characters's actors put the series to an abrupt ending.
This TV series contains examples of:
- Almighty Janitor: Krogshøj
- Anti-Anti-Christ: Lillebro
- Author Avatar: Trier himself always appears doing the credits to give a closing monologue, in which he usually recaps the plot, delivers some Script Wank and reminds everyone to: "Take the good with the evil."
- Bait and Switch Credits: Usual medical drama credits, with action shots of the regular cast looking tense/concerned/competent interspersed with ambulances and the like. Hang on, why's that Ominous Latin Chanting there...
- Blackmail: Krogshøj's speciality with both Helmer and Mogge.
- Blind Driving
- Body Horror
- Brotherhood of Funny Hats: Yes, they've got one of these, too. Just mind your nose, duckling.
- Butt Monkey: Bulder.
- Catch Phrase: Danskjävlar!
- Chew Toy: Bulder especially - the poor guy can't catch a break. Overall, pretty much half the cast.
- Cliff Hanger: The second series ends with several of these. In the DVD commentaries, the makers mentioned that it might be just as well that Actor Existence Failure prevents them from making a third series, seeing as how they had written themselves into a corner.
- Cloudcuckooland: The hospital is pretty much this, in a dark way.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Moesgaard Sr., who's blissfully unaware of all the strange things that happens in the hospital and constantly raves about "Operation Morning Air".
- The Comically Serious: Dr. Helmer, especially when confronted with "Operation Morning Air" and other team building exercises, like everyone at the morning meeting having to announce their presence in song.
- Deadly Gas: Krüger killed Mary with chlorine gas under the guise of inhalations to treat an imaginary lung disease. At one point we see her ghost exhale green fumes.
- Deadpan Snarker: Dr. Helmer and Krogshøj. Sometimes they go head to head.
- Decapitation Presentation
- Dogged Nice Guy: Krogshøj towards Judith Petersen, and Mogge (with a heaping great side of Idiot Ball) towards the sleep lab nurse.
- Dr. Feelgood: Krogshøj extracts cocaine from surplus local anaesthetics and sells it to the other doctors.
- Face Heel Turn: Krogshøj after his near-death
- Fetus Terrible: Judith Petersen's unborn child.
- For Science!: Dr. Bondo will do anything to get Zakariassens tumor. Including having the diseased liver transplanted into his own body . He and his students also repeatedly intone "For Science!" as a group mantra in the second series, complete with collective "thumbs up".
- Greek Chorus: The two dishwashers with Downs syndrome.
- Grim Reaper: a human-looking version of Death appears at the end.
- The Grotesque: Little Brother
- He Also Did: Von Trier is otherwise seldom this funny, at least intentionally.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Bergman regular Ernst-Hugo Järegård (Stig Helmer), Euro-arthouse fixture Udo Kier, and (if you grew up anywhere in the region) a whole lot of others.
- Lars von Trier actively tried to recruit as many Danish actors as possible from Matador, probably the most popular Danish television series ever. This includes the actors playing Mrs. Drusse, Moesgaard, Rigmor, and a lot of the supporting cast.
- Hollywood Satanism
- I Cannot Self-Terminate: Little Brother.
- Left Hanging: And HOW! Not only is four plotlines stopped on a massive Cliff Hanger, but thanks to the death of three vital actors it is highly unlikely that the series will ever get a proper ending.
- Little Old Lady Investigates: It's really hard to
fake your wayget into the neurology ward, you know.
- Long Lost Sibling: A few.
- Love Martyr: Rigmor, most of the time.
- Luke, I Am Your Father
- Mad Scientist: Dr. Bondo. Check out his little speech to his pathology class about how the dead contribute to the community thanks to having overcome the fear of human contact so sadly prevalent among the living. (This is delivered while standing next to a corpse the students are about to examine ... followed by "Alright, let's get carving", as he reaches for the scalpel). That he's also a twisted version of The Spock does not help.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: the second season suggests that the first season's "ghost ambulances" were the result of an "ambulance speed record" game involving some of the orderlies and medical students.
- My Beloved Smother: Mrs. Drusse.
- Near-Death Clairvoyance
- Near-Death Experience
- Never Mess with Granny: Also Mrs. Drusse. Not technically a granny, poor Bulder having been smothered too far to stand a chance at such things. He once tried to move out, you know. For about a day. Decades ago.
- Nietzsche Wannabe: Krogshøj after his near-death experience.
- Nightmare Sequence: Mogge Moesgaard during the sleeping experiments. Later subverted.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: The intros have lots of it. Obscene Ominous Latin Chanting, if you listen closely. With a funky dance routine. Within the story, the death of the chaplain in the second series.
- Only a Flesh Wound
- Only Sane Man: Dr. Helmer thinks he is this. Sometimes he may even have a point. Other times, not so much.
- Opening Narration
- Oracular Head
- Orderlies Are Creeps: averted, as Bulder is very nice.
- Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Partly subverted.
- Posthumous Character: Aage Krüger. Many people wish.
- Psycho Psychologist: Ole
- Reckless Gun Usage: Rigmor
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Bongo, in the Cliff Hanger of series 1 ep 2.
- Red Right Hand: Krüger painfully grows horns when Mrs. Drusse identifies him as a demon.
- Redubbing: The abovementioned Greek Chorus actors were overdubbed by others, presumably because their Downs syndrome prevented them from delivering their lines satisfactorily.
- Udo Kier was also redubbed. He just delivered his lines in phonetical danish and was dubbed over afterwards. This was done for both of his roles, but they did have different dubbers for both.
- Refuge in Audacity: Some might take offence over the scene where Helmer compares anatomies with the man from Haiti.
- On Helmer's own part, in-universe, when he is caught pretty much red-handed trying to alter the medical records:
"You may be wondering what I'm doing here. And do you know, I don't know either? I can't explain at all!"
- Shout-Out: The spiritist Mrs. Drusse is a character from Danish author Hans Scherfig's novels.
- Skyward Scream: DANSKJÄVLAR!!! (DANISH SCUM)
- The Social Darwinist: Krogshøj after his near-death.
- Surreal Horror: So much of it. Do we even have to mention what Dr. Petersen gives birth to?
- Understatement: "He's been different ever since he came back from the morgue".
- "Take That!" Kiss: Krogshøj plants one on Helmer. In front of the entire morning staff meeting.
- Title Drop: In the Opening Monologue. Look at the quote at the top of the page.
- World Gone Mad: The whole hospital, pretty much from the get go.