Sunday, 19 September 2010


An adventurous episode in the Dogme 95 film movement, The King Is Alive takes a group of international tourists to a desert in Namibia, where their bus breaks down in an abandoned village. Dissuaded by the nerves of their driver, the group initially panics, throwing unreasonable accusations at each other before deciding on a plan. A seasoned explorer named Jack briefs the other passengers on means of survival, before leaving on foot to find the nearest settlement. A first night brings drunken camaraderie, but some of the passengers isolate themselves, unable to forget their situation for a single second. To keep the spirits up, Henry encourages the group to put on an impromptu production of King Lear, a performance that accurately mirrors the increasing sense of cabin fever palpable in the village.

What would normally have been another retread of a terribly familiar film concept is given new gravitas with its direct handheld style. Kristian Levring, one of the founders of Dogme 95, thrives under the audiovisual constraints, giving full attention to the group dynamic. The setting is a constant source of excitement, the shades of saturated orange reminding one of the suffocating heat. The range of characters unfortunately also means a range of performances – where one actor might be thoroughly convincing, the next is hammy enough to shake the viewer back into reality. In a way, the King Lear performance draws subtle reference to this unevenness, resourcefully turning it on its head to breathe new life into the film.

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