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IFC Films
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Director: Kristian Levring
Producer: Patricia Kruijer, Vibeke Windelov
Written by: Kristian Levring, Anders Thomas Jensen
Cast: Miles Anderson, Romane Bohringer, David Bradley, David Calder, Bruce Davison, Brion James, Peter Khubeke, Vusi Kunene, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Janet McTeer, Chris Walker, Lia Williams

Rating: out of 5

Dogme95 is the Danish film collective whose previous productions include MIFUNE and THE CELEBRATION. All Dogme95 films adhere to a set of rules, the most visibly apparent of which are that shooting must be done on location without outside props and sets, sound must never be produced apart from the images, and the camera must be hand-held. These rules have been put to wonderful effect in their latest film, THE KING IS ALIVE.

The story seems simple on the surface: Twelve bus-passengers stranded in an abandoned town in the middle of the African desert decide to stage a reading of the play King Lear to pass the time. But the real story is what happens as the days go by and the flimsy veneers of civilization begin to crack and peel in the scorching sun to reveal the rage, jealousy, lust, betrayal, and despair that lurk beneath. Perhaps not unexpectedly, the relationships that suffer the most amongst these desert castaways are those of the couples.

The characters are as vivid as the saturated colors of this film, and the interactions between them crackle with intensity. The filmmakers masterfully balance the use of script and improvisation to keep the story tight and the acting fluid.

The Dogme style of shooting produces a raw and voyeuristic point of view. THE KING IS ALIVE is also a stunning example of just how good something shot on digital video can be—and this without any special lighting, optical work, or filters (again per the rules).

This dramatic tale is definitely worth a look. I am looking forward to what Dogme95 has to offer in the future.


On a sad note, actor Brion James passed away just days after shooting was completed. A veteran of more than 120 films and 100 television roles, he was probably best known for his roles in BLADE RUNNER and THE FIFTH ELEMENT.

—Sandhya Shardanand

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