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3 reviews, 4 user ratings

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King is Alive, The
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by Greg Muskewitz

"Dogma does 'Survivor.'"
2 stars

The fourth and final “commissioned” Dogma 95 experiment (following Lars von Trier’s “The Idiots,” Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Celebration” and Søren Kragh Jacobsen’s “Mifune”), Kristian Levring’s “The King Is Alive” is a reality-TV-esque tale of abandonment and survival, with the supplementary influence, or moreover, addition or inclusion of Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” (A bewildered pre-screening audience member thought it was a documentary on the other king, Elvis.)

A promising, though certainly not original idea strands 11 people, including the bus driver, in the middle of a desert without gas or any means of communication. (The compass was broken at 180-degrees, the direction that was to be followed.) Here we have “Survivor” in the desert, though with no help from Jeff Probst or immunity challenges to spare any lives. Some passengers are grumpy to begin with, while others gradually wear away in the heat, as one of the stranded men searches for a distant city and an old African inhabitant — the only one of his kind — observes from a silent distance. What to do to pass the time? Why not stage “King Lear!” (One uninterested stranded traveler proposes the only way to get him involved in the production is if he can sleep with her: “Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do, sacrifice yourself for your art?”)

Supposedly “The King Is Alive” is supposed to be the best shot of the Dogmas, but rumor has it that the colors, etc. have been touched up in the lab. Of those commissioned, the only one I have not seen is “The Celebration,” but I have seen enough clips from it to judge the quality of the image. “The King Is Alive” has a corroded, dirty and grainy image, which is needless to say, quite repulsive. The best shot Dogma movie is by far “Mifune,” where Jacobsen takes the time to frame and easy his camera in its movements. In relation to TV’s “Survivor,” there are two distinct differences that make it better, but nothing special to brag about. One is the image quality; naturally TV is supposed to look good, but with the amendments of Dogma, it’s hard to compete. Regardless, I’d rather look at the superior image. The second advantage to “Survivor” was the ability to root for some of the competitors. “The King Is Alive” leaves you indifferent to some of the characters at best, and only for awhile. They needn’t be outright likable, but what good is any of it if you cannot identify with at least one person. By the conclusion, they are all completely despicable — that is, those who have survived (natural and imposed “disasters”). Additionally, as the long days and strains wear on the characters, it exhausts the audience as well, leaving them in a dazed state of inactivity.

The actors do a decent job of making themselves unappealing and inhuman, but they too looked bored eventually with the lack of choice to do anything. Jennifer Jason Leigh, who looks like Patricia Arquette in the middle 1980s, does a much better job of using digital video to her advantage in the upcoming “The Anniversary Party” (co-directed by Alan Cumming).

With Janet McTeer, David Bradley, Chris Walker, Vusi Kunene, Lia Williams, Romane Bohringer and Peter Kubheka. Written by Levring and Anders Thomas Jensen.

Note: As far as I’m concerned, Levring also broke one of the Dogma rules, which states that no murders can be committed. To avoid specifics, there is a case where one of the characters purposely poisons another, which leads to their death.

Final Verdict: C.

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originally posted: 06/14/01 18:30:07
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User Comments

7/18/04 Fernando the best dogma ever 5 stars
4/03/04 Eugene Powerful - Honest 5 stars
8/19/01 kirsten great movie 5 stars
8/06/01 kirsten very good 5 stars
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  11-May-2000 (R)



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