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"DANSKJÄVLAR!"

"No living persons know it yet, but the gateway to the Kingdom is opening once again."
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Riget (The Kingdom in English, although it also translates to The Realm) is a Danish TV series created and co-directed by Lars von Trier, who also co-wrote the script with Niels Vørsel. While it acts as a Medical Drama on the surface, it also contains copious amounts of surreal and religious horror, supernatural events, and a dark, wry sense of humor, up to and including a Greek Chorus of dishwashers with Down syndrome. Entirely filmed on location with handheld cameras and a grimy, sepia-tinted color scheme, it has been described by critics as "Twin Peaks meets M*A*S*H" (with Trier crediting the former as an influence).

The setting for the series is the eponymous Rigshospitalet (The National Hospital) in Copenhagen, with focus on the neurosurgical ward and its employees and their somewhat mundane everyday life. But, as the Opening Narration explains, 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.

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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 a brain operation on a young girl 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". At the same time, his immature son Mogge runs afoul of his professor, the (madly) idealistic Dr. Bondo, after having stolen a head from the morgue and used it for a prank. Dr. Bondo wants to get his hands on a rare tumor in dying Mr. Zakariassen's liver. And when Mr. Zakariassen's family says no, the good doctor is driven to desperate action.

And there is something strange about the pregnancy of Dr. Petersen...

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The series ran for two seasons, respectively in 1994 and 1997. It was never officially cancelled, but the deaths of the actors playing three significant characters (most notably Ernst-Hugo Järegård as Stig Helmer in 1998 and Kirsten Rolffes as Sigrid Drusse in 2000) prevented any continuation. In December 2020, however, Trier made the surprise announcement that he was going to make a third season consisting of five episodes, titled Riget Exodus, which will act as the Grand Finale to the show. Trier and a crew of both recurring and new actors filmed the new season during 2021, and the finished product is set to premier at the Venice International Film Festival in September 2022. Prior to this, a newly remastered HD version of the original two seasons were released in August 2022. Trier has said that while Exodus will continue and provide resolution to the story, it is also supposed to be a semi-independent installment and welcoming to newcomers, and as such familiarly with the two original seasons won't be strictly mandatory to enjoy the new series.

An American adaptation, developed by Stephen King and called Kingdom Hospital, was created in 2004.


This TV series contains examples of:

  • Almighty Janitor: Krogshøj might be a low ranking doctor, but he is also the hospital's resident Knowledge Broker and Friend in the Black Market who knows every dirty secret worth knowing and is able to get you whatever you need within a few hours, giving him quite a bit of political weight to throw around as he can call in favors from pretty much everyone.
  • Amoral Attorney: Dr. Helmer's Swedish lawyer is about as diabolical and disdainful towards the Danes as the "good" doctor himself, and his legal advice to Helmer, regarding the pending malpractice suit against him, is telling him to keep the case from getting to court for as long as possible, because it will make the persecutor's job more difficult, as time tends to render evidence unavailable and make witnesses forgetting details of their accounts. He also urges Helmer to avoid the court clerk who has been send out with a subpoena for him at all costs, because a subpoena doesn't count until he has received it.
  • Anti-Anti-Christ: Lillebror, being a pure and kind soul despite his Humanoid Abomination appearance, rejects the plans of his evil father, Aage Krüger, to use him to be reborn into the physical world, even being willing to die to deny his father a new corporal existence.
  • 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 Bad."
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The ending of Exodus features the ultimate victory of the Devil, the destruction of the hospital, and pretty much all of the characters dying.
  • 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...
  • Black Is Bigger in Bed: Heavily implied in this scene, in which Dr. Helmer gazes at the lower body parts of his Haitian companion who uses the urinal next to him. Helmer then slaps him in the face as if offended.
  • Blackmail: Dr. Krogshøj's speciality is finding dirt on everyone who works at the hospital and then using it to extort favors. Dr. Helmer and Mogge both get to experience it.
  • Blind Driving: In an ambulance, no less.
  • Body Horror: Lillebror, who is ostensibly supposed to be an infant, but has the face and head of an adult man and limbs so overgrown that he needs support braces to stay alive, is perhaps the show's epitome of this.
  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats: Yes, they've got one of these, too. Just mind your nose, duckling.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Stig Helmer is a deconstruction. He's a Large Ham and narcissist Jerkass, but he's also a highly competent surgeon and rarely makes mistakes. Deconstructed since his personality makes him insufferable for most of the hospital staff and patients. When he does make a mistake, like with Mona or when he tries to poison Krogshøj, his Jerkass traits lead to Serial Escalation.
  • Brick Joke:
    • When Stig takes over administration, he orders that his door be narrowed to accommodate a bookcase on the adjoining wall. After he gets shot by Rigmor, his wheelchair doesn't fit through it.
    • In the first episode of Riget I, Bondo cancels a lecture at which Mogge was supposed to give a presentation on amylase, and he wonders when he's ever going to need that knowledge again (possibly when he's a doctor, one of his classmates snarks). In the last episode of Riget II, Mogge takes his final oral exams. Guess what they ask him about?
  • Butt-Monkey: Bulder.
  • Cameo: Stellan Skarsgård appears in a sole scene and playes a Swedish lawyer who advises Helmer that as long as he avoids acknowledging the bailiffs' attempts to serve him with a writ to appear in court for medical malpractice, the case can't go to trial. He describes it as "the Swedish defence".
  • Casting Gag: There is some suspicion that Lars von Trier intended to cast as many actors from Matador as he could possibly find. Regulars in both Matador and Riget counts Holger Juul Hansen (Varnæs in Matador, Doctor Moesgaard in Riget) and Ghita Nørby (Ingeborg Skjern / Rigmor) were regulars in Matador, while Kirsten Rolffes (Mrs. Drusse in Riget) appeared in a single episode of Matador. Other actors from Matador play various bit parts throughout Riget.
  • Catchphrase: "Danskjävlar!"
  • Chewing the Scenery:
    • Stig Helmer with the hammy acting by Ernst-Hugo Järegård. Most memorably the iconic "Danskjävlar!" scream.
    • The male dishwasher, of all people, and he loves Milking the Giant Cow.
  • Chew Toy: Bulder especially — the poor guy can't catch a break. Overall, pretty much half the cast.
  • Cliffhanger: The second series ends with several of these: Mona has disappeared after Helmer sent her through the hospital's internal transportation system to hide the fact that he has kidnapped her, Hook has allowed the hospital's power to remain switched off to wipe out the weaker patients, causing Christian to lose contact with the staff assisting him in his blind ambulance run and collide head-on with Mogge and Sanne, Mrs. Drusse is stuck in a rapidly descending lift, Bondo has received a bone marrow transplant from Bulder that may or may not save his life, and a man named Johnsson from Lund has shown up bringing regards from Helmer's wife and seven children (whose existence is evidently unknown to Rigmor). In the DVD commentaries, the makers mentioned that it might be just as well that the deaths of three actors prevented them from making a third series, seeing as how they had written themselves into a corner.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: 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. Note that the cut to Mary's ghost exhaling green gas is made right after Drusse realises what happened to her, making this very potent Nightmare Fuel.
  • 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: Dr. Krogshøj hoards medical alcohol which he uses to make extra potent cocktails from. He also extracts cocaine from surplus local anaesthetics and sells it to the other doctors.
  • Dr. Jerk: Dr. Helmer embodies the trope.
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: Dr. Krogshøj pulls this on Dr. Helmer by drinking (what he thinks is) his cup of coffee. It backfires spectacularly as it turns out that it was a poisoned cup of coffee that Dr. Helmer was trying to dispose of.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: The ending of Exodus.
  • Every Episode Ending: Every episode ends with Trier finishing his closing monologue by wishing the viewers a pleasant evening, and reminding them, in case they wish to spend more time with the series, they should be prepared to "Take the Good, with the Bad," as he first does the sign of the cross followed by the sign of the horns.
  • Externalizing Internal Monologue: Thanks, thou watchtowers of Sweden. With plutonium we bring the Danes to their knees.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Krogshøj, after his near-death, suddenly becomes a passionate believer in eugenics, suggesting that taking care of the "weaker" patients is not worth it from a financial or social point of view (he is only stopped from smothering Mona by the timely arrival of other doctors). In the final episode, a maintenance worker asks him to take over supervising the regular test of the hospital's emergency power supply, as if it doesn't switch on, the life support for weaker patients will be turned off...
  • Fetus Terrible: Subverted. Judith Petersen's unborn child appears to be this initially, with his father being Aage Krüger, his weirdly accelerated growth, and the fact that he has the face of a middle-aged man, and the ability to talk within days of being born. But despite appearances, Lillebror, as he ends up being named, is actually a thoroughly kind and good-natured kid and turns out to be the Anti-Anti-Christ.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: The Sons of the Kingdom, who "plead allegiance to concrete science, and animosity towards the occult in all its forms". While ghosts and demons are running around the corridors in plain view.
  • For Science!: Dr. Bondo will do anything to get Zakariassen's 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".
  • Friend in the Black Market: Dr. Krogshøj is this for the entire hospital, being able to get his colleagues the medicine or equipment they need on a short notice and without having to deal with the bureaucracy and red tape that comes with requesting it through the official channels. He doesn't take payment in money, however, very much preferring to have people owe him favors in exchange for his assistance instead.
  • From Bad to Worse: For Dr. Bondo who first gets the liver with tumor transplanted into his body then it is not replaced as he wants the tumor to grow. As it is replaced by the healthy liver the methastasis have already spread.
  • Greek Chorus: The two dishwashers with Downs syndrome.
  • Grim Reaper: A human-looking version of Death appears at the end.
  • The Grotesque: Little Brother is a supernatural baby with the face of a middle-aged man, and a body that grows in strange and unpredictable ways, to the point where he could easily qualify as a Humanoid Abomination, if it wasn't for the fact that he is actually a pretty nice kid and the Anti-Anti-Christ.
  • He Also Did: Von Trier is otherwise seldom this funny, at least intentionally.
  • Hellevator: The supernatural events are set in motion by Mrs. Drusse hearing a child's voice crying out in the elevator shaft and becoming obsessed with discovering who the child is and what she can do to help her. In the final episode of Riget II, she steps into another lift which plunges downwards into negative floor numbers, as though on its way to Hell itself.
  • Hollywood Satanism: When Mrs. Drusse concludes that the reason the spirits of the dead are so restless in the hospital is because there is a devil-worshipping cult operating on its grounds, we see clips of stereotypical Satanic rituals involving bowls of blood and statues of demons, and Mrs. Drusse's test to identify the Satanists involves a word association test in which the anticipated response to "Beelzebub" is "Grand Duc".
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Lillebror begs his mother, Judith, to kill him by cutting the support beams for his body to prevent his father, Aage Krüger, from succeeding in his plan of using him to be reborn.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Whenever you think Stig Helmer isn't all bad. Does he actually care for his girlfriend Rigmor? Is he going to apologize to Mona's mother? Unfailingly, he always reveals himself to be an even bigger jerkass.
  • Jerkass: Mogge was clearly very immature from the beginning, but he really starts to come out as this in the second series.
  • Large Ham:
    • Stig Helmer lives this trope combined with Deadpan Snarker. Actor Ernst-Hugo Järegård was a well-regarded ham of Swedish theatre and television.
    • The Psycho Psychologist Ole is fond of hamming as well. Dr. Bondo's ham remarkably grows in size when he speaks to his students or colleagues.
  • Laughably Evil: One of the reasons why Stig Helmer is such a Love to Hate character. He is also a bit of Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, as his crazy schemes to save his own ass tend to backfire on him.
  • Left Hanging: The original run of the series had four plotlines ending abruptly on massive Cliff Hangers, and due to the death of three vital actors it appeared highly unlikely that the series will ever get a proper ending. The announcement of Exodus might mean that a resolution of some kind is in sight.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: After one particularity chaotic evening at the hospital, where Rigmor shot Helmer in the leg, Krogshøj turned out to be Only Mostly Dead and has returned to work like his "death" never happened, and the hospital priest was very brutally and messily killed by something unseen, Moesgaard resolves to only mention all these events with a short comment each during the morning meeting and then immediately follows up by telling everyone present that he doesn't want to discuss any of these events in any kind of detail, and neither should they.
  • Likes Older Women: Mogge has a crush on Camilla, the nurse who works in the sleep laboratory. She rejects his advances because she finds him too young and immature.
  • Little Old Lady Investigates: Mrs. Drusse takes upon herself to investigate the supernatural events and stories behind the ghosts at the hospital, effectively combining this trope with Occult Detective. Von Trier himself directly compares her to Miss Marple in one of his closing monologues.
  • Long Lost Sibling: Bondo has no family to provide a donor for the bone marrow transplant that might save his life after the cancer in Zakariassen's liver metastasises in other parts of his body, though he does mention having a possible half-brother. Upon hearing this, Mrs. Drusse confesses to Bulder that he is Bondo's half-brother.
  • Love Martyr: Rigmor, most of the time.
  • Love Triangle: For Mogge, Sanne and Christian.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Mary Jensen turns out to be Aage Krüger's illegitimate daughter.
  • 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.
  • A Man Is Always Eager: Subverted. Mogge frequently lusts for Camilia to begin with, but once they have gotten intimate, Mogge loudly complains to Christian that all she wants to do with him is have sex, and its making him quite exhausted.
  • 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. She still haven't forgiven her adult son, Bulder, for moving out. Even though it was about 30 years ago, and he moved back in with her after just a week on his own.
  • Monochrome to Color: A sort of inversion in Exodus; when Karen shows up outside Riget for the first time, the show employs a rather subdued and realistic color scheme, dominated by dull blue lighting (and quite reminiscent of Lars von Trier's newer films such as Melancholia and The House That Jack Built, but as soon as she enters the hospital proper, the show's familiar Recurring Riff suddenly plays, and the show's famous sepia-tinted color scheme kicks in in full force.
  • Near-Death Clairvoyance: Mrs. Drusse asks her terminally ill friend Emma to spend as long as she can in the "Swedenborg Room" between life and death to gain information about Mary, the child she has heard crying in the elevator shaft, which she is later able to use to usher Mary's soul to the afterlife.
  • Near-Death Experience: Mrs. Drusse has one in the second episode of Season 2. Where she experiences her soul floating out of her body and she then ends up in an Afterlife Antechamber, where Mary informs that it is not her time yet and that she still has much to do, causing her to revive.
  • 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 week. Decades ago.
  • Nice Guy: Lillebror, despite his Humanoid Abomination appearance, is a very nice and pure-hearted kid. This is empathized by him speaking with a Funenian accent. In Denmark, people from the island of Funen are often stereotyped as being generally extraordinarily nice and cheerful, if somewhat naive.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Krogshøj after his near-death experience.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Mogge Moesgaard during the sleeping experiments. Later subverted.
  • No Ending: After the second season ended up a massive cliffhanger, it looked like there would never be a third and final season. The cliffhanger was so complex, it qualifies for an involuntary Gainax Ending. Eventually subverted, after 25 years, with the announcement of a third season.
  • Non-Residential Residence: Dr. Krogshøj doesn't own a home; instead he lives in a quartered off storage space at the titular hospital, and lives off of surplus food and cutlery he has smuggled out from from the hospital cafeteria, while his clothes and linens are acquired entirely from the hospital laundry. While this is strictly speaking not legal, he gets away with it due to having "a special agreement" with the senior hospital staff.
  • 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 and Hansen are very nice.
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Partly subverted. Dr. Helmer tries to poison Dr. Krogshøj's coffee at the daily morning meeting, but he soon loses track of the poisoned cup, and in a panic he ends up violently taking away everyone's coffee cups, much to their confusion.
  • Posthumous Character: Aage Krüger. Many people wish.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Ole. From what seen of his regular patients, they all appear to be utterly traumatized by his methods and react with unbridled terror whenever they see him. The only person the audience actually get to see him subject to therapy is Dr. Moesgaard Sr., and even then all said therapy does is making Moesgaard get in touch with and unleash his suppressed Dirty Old Man side.
  • Racist Grandma: Mrs. Drusse has a touch of this. At one point, Bulder introduces her to Philip Marco, the famous psychic surgeon that she has been raving about, but never actually met in person. As it turns out, Marco is a black guy. Mrs. Drusse immediately assumes that he is just one of the hospital's janitors and wonders why Bulder thinks her room needs an extra cleaning.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Rigmor
  • Red Baron: Dr. Krogshøj is better known by his nickname "Krogen" ("The Hook"), because of his ability to collect both dirt on people and getting favors from them.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Bongo, in the Cliffhanger of series 1 ep 2.
  • Red Right Hand: Krüger painfully grows horns when Mrs. Drusse identifies him as a demon.
  • Redubbing:
    • The 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. Notably, the dub for Lillebror has a clear Funenian accent.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • When Helmer 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!"
    • Or when he pours everyone coffee while trying to poison Krogshøj and loses track of the fatal cup, and Helmer angrily snatches the coffee away from everyone on the pretext that they are being ungrateful by not drinking it. Even though they were just about to.
  • Serious Business:
    • The bizarre rituals of the series' Brotherhood of Funny Hats, such as having new initiates hold a lemon in their mouths while one of the brothers cuts it with a very sharp knife (resulting in an increasing incidence of seriously cut noses).
    • The counseling techniques of Psychotherapist Ole, which involve hammering away on drums and having the patients in his group insult Moesgaard while hitting him with cardboard tubes; Moesgaard's confusion at these activities just angers Ole further.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The spiritist Mrs. Drusse is a character from Danish author Hans Scherfig's (The Stolen Spring) novels.
    • Stig Helmer is the name of the meek protagonist of a Swedish comedy franchise.
    • The repeated motif of a concrete wall, which is breached by water, as an image of the spirits breaking into the world of mortals, was also used in Lucio Fulci's classic surreal horror movie The Beyond (1981).
  • Skyward Scream: DANSKJÄVLAR!!! (DANISH F*CKERS)
  • The Social Darwinist: Krogshøj, after his near-death, believes that society depends on the strong enduring at the expense of the weak, and he thinks nothing of murdering patients who have no chance of fully recovering their physical and/or mental faculties, such as Mona.
  • Sorry to Interrupt: Taken to hilarious heights with the Minister of Health's visit to the neurosurgical ward, which ends coinciding with the climaxes of several running plot-lines. The Minister and his delegation first manages to inadvertently bump into Mrs. Drusse, Bulder, and Dr. Krogshøj's exorcism of Mary in the hospital basement. They then walk in on Dr. Bondo's liver transplantation, right as the drug-addled Bondo starts raving about how he doesn't want to have his diseased liver removed. They then happen upon Dr. Petersen laying in labor with spread legs on an examination table as she attempts to have her supernaturally large baby aborted. Finally, they enter the sleep laboratory right as Camilla is in mid-coitus with Mogge.
  • Surreal Horror: So much of it. Do we even have to mention what Dr. Petersen gives birth to?
  • "Take That!" Kiss: Krogshøj plants one on Helmer. In front of the entire morning staff meeting.
  • Title Drop: In the Opening Narration. Look at the quote at the top of the page.
  • Tsundere: Anne from Exodus is a really weird example. She torments Helmer Jr. with false sexual harassment claims and false rape accusations, while also following him around like a puppy and seemingly being very besotted with him, as if extorting money from him were a sort of strange courtship. She also sometimes acts as his Hyper-Competent Sidekick.
  • Understatement: "He's been different ever since he came back from the morgue".
  • Womb Horror: Across the first season, Dr. Petersen undergoes an eerily fast pregnancy, with the fetus growing more than three times as fast as it is supposed to. At the end of the season, she attempts to have an abortion, only for it to fail to terminate the by-now supernaturally oversized fetus, it instead ends up kickstarting her giving birth to something that has the head of an adult man.
  • World Gone Mad: The whole hospital, pretty much from the get go. And that's before the hauntings begin (who, at best, merely manage to add the cherry to the crazy cake). The few characters who are relatively sane end up going nuts as well over the course of just two short seasons.

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