Lars von Trier shows a series in Venice

Others position themselves at the Lido for the Oscars: Noah Baumbach proves himself after “Marriage Story” with a Don DeLillo film adaptation, Cate Blanchett shines as a sneaky star conductor

The hospital is haunted, Karen (Bodil Jørgensen) turns up and searches for the ghosts. Scene from «The Kingdom Exodus» by Lars von Trier.

Henrik Ohsten

Lars von Trier has a new series, the hall is empty. Can this be? Less than two dozen journalists and industry representatives turned up for the premiere of The Kingdom Exodus in Venice. And everyone there looks at each other in amazement: has the Dane fallen out of fashion, are no longer forgiven for his escapades, and is he being cut now? “Ma il film è importante!” exclaims an Italian colleague.

One of the most exciting, provocative directors in the world (“Nymphomaniac”, “Melancholia”) is presenting his new work at the Venice Film Festival, and no one goes? It can not be. It’s not like that either.

After half an hour the performance still hasn’t started, but the mystery has been solved. Suddenly, people burst into the hall from the right and left, climbing across the rows of seats like zombies who have smelled prey. In no time it is packed. What was going on? Apparently there was a problem with the ticket scanning devices at the entrance, and soon there was a traffic jam outside.

Fantastic madness

So Lars von Trier is still relevant, everyone is there and watches “The Kingdom Exodus” for hours. The series runs in one go, running time: 295 minutes. You have to forgo the aperitivo, but who wouldn’t? It is the third season of «The Kingdom», which has been awaited for a quarter of a century (it will be shown on the Mubi streaming platform in autumn). The first two featured Lars von Trier as the most subtle narrator in Danish film in the mid-1990s, and a few years later the horror specialist Stephen King even adapted the material for American television.

The scene of the ghost dance was and is the National Hospital in Copenhagen. The building stands on a moor, dyers used to soak their cloths here. The swamp was not recommended as building land, one should have been warned: the unhealthy bleach mist stayed put, now it squats in the walls, and the hospital is haunted. Somewhere in the walls, an ancient dead girl is crying. There is also a new chief physician, a luminary from Sweden, who is supposed to teach the incompetent Danes how to work in hospitals.

“The Kingdom” one and two was fantastic madness, and von Trier picks it up again with a self-ironic swerve. Karen (Bodil Jørgensen) sits annoyed in front of the TV – what’s on? «The Kingdom», second season. “How can they peddle such half-baked nonsense?” the woman gets annoyed and throws the DVD out of the drive.

During the night, the sleepwalker suddenly finds herself in front of the Reich Hospital, where she sets out to clear up everything that the series hasn’t cleared up. But even the night watchman reacts irritably. The film production ruined the hospital’s reputation, he says. The director, this Lars von Trier, is an idiot. Karen nods and then goes ghost hunting anyway.

The new king in the

The new king in the “Kingdom”: The Swedish chief physician (Mikael Persbrandt) is flown in by helicopter.

Henrik Ohsten

“There’s life in it”

Twenty-five years ago, Lars von Trier promised that the third part would be darker than the second. Because it had turned out too light and funny for his condition. But you haven’t seen anything funnier than “Exodus” for a long time, so von Trier hasn’t kept his promise. Or? “No,” he says. “Probably not. But don’t ask me anything because I always say what I think.” The director sits in a Hawaiian shirt in front of a Renaissance painting, he is included in the video for the press conference in Venice.

He’s lost a lot of weight and he’s shaking. Lars von Trier recently made his Parkinson’s disease public. It’s his first appearance since. The filmmaker says that he thinks he’s doing a little better, but every word clearly takes strength. It will take time to fight the tremors, he says. “I also feel a little more stupid than I used to – and that’s saying something.”

The humor is still there, dry as ever. Talks about Trier stoically, soberly. “I didn’t want to do anything modern,” he says of “The Kingdom Exodus.” He wouldn’t know how to do that anyway. Because he never watches TV. The series obviously means a lot to him, sentences like: “I hope there is life in it.”

The TV series “The Kingdom” could hardly be livelier – and the cinema? The approach to Venice went through thick clouds in the morning. In the rain, the water bus then worked its way against the waves. Venice knows drama, on the opening day of the 79th Film Festival there was initially a hint of the end of the world mood over the lagoon. The water city will go under, the climatologists are sure. The cinematologists worry about the cinema: Where is the water?

You will know more after Venice: the most important films are chosen at the festival, those that win the big prizes in winter. “Nomadland” was a Venice film at the time, as were “The Shape of Water”, “Spotlight”, and “Birdman”. The competition from Cannes has Tom Cruise or “Elvis”, but that’s popcorn. If you want to win an Oscar, test the waters in Venice.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came as a surprise to the opening.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came as a surprise to the opening.

Yara Nardi / Reuters

The reflexes play in the realm of the Golden Lion: Wherever a long-legged gazelle stalks across the site, the photographers bared their teeth. The beautiful boats bring stars to the Lido by the meter, even Hillary Clinton came to the opening, and, as in Cannes, Volodymyr Zelensky from the Ukraine spoke to the conscience of the premiere audience.

Cancel culture in the orchestra

Whoever was in the hall then saw the new Noah Baumbach: After his success with “Marriage Story”, the American filmed Don DeLillo’s “White Noise” (on Netflix in December). Adam Driver plays the eccentric professor of Hitler studies, Greta Gerwig’s wife, who takes the wrong pills against her fear of death. From a marriage drama to the drama of a small town fleeing a poisonous cloud – anyone who knows the book knows: this satire goes from the hundredth to the thousandth, and from the absurd to the absurd, Baumbach accommodates everything, the characters fall all over themselves Time to speak, they have so much to say, sometimes you can’t follow, but you can never switch off.

Cate Blanchett, too, is not always easy to follow as she, as the fictional star conductor Lydia Tár, tackles Mahler’s 5th Symphony in Berlin. At the beginning there is a lot of shop talk. Todd Field, who hasn’t staged anything since 2006 and the drama “Little Children”, then works his way deep into the psyche of the exceptional musician from the technical point of view – and with the aperitivo it doesn’t work again: the filmmaker unfolds over a good two and a half hours in ” Tár” is a complex, state-of-the-art character study.

It’s about bullying in high-performance music, about cancel culture too. Two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (“Elizabeth”, “Blue Jasmine”) always shines. But here even a bit more than usual. The film won’t hit the cinemas until February, just in time for the Oscars. What can be said: The Blanchett will fill the halls.

Cate Blanchett plays a star conductor whose world is out of step.  Scene from «Tár».

Cate Blanchett plays a star conductor whose world is out of step. Scene from «Tár».

Focus Features / AP

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