Reach Exceeds Grasp
Richard Wells | Seattle, WA USA | 12/12/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The King is Alive," is problematic in a very good way. It's a Dogme film, which means it was made under a set of rules that holds the film maker to natural light, ambient sound, actual locations, and possibly a few more restrictions. Working within that format the director, Kristian Levring, has made something quite remarkable. His location is the Namibian desert, and he has captured the splendor of the light, color, and landscape quite well. The intrusion of a soundtrack is blissfully missing, and the only music in the film leaks from a set of headphones for a disc player, lasts about 5 seconds, and works with great effect. Mr. Levring also made good casting choices, and the cast does a good job except for a few moments that are miserably improvised. The big problems are with the script. There's one plot hole that you could drive the broken down bus through, and a conclusion that's not conclusive - it's as if the production just ran out of film, or tape. Otherwise, it's entirely believable that a group of people disintegrating in a survival situation would choose to take their minds off their impossible situation by enacting a drama, especially because their situation is one of waiting rather than action; and it's conceivable that "King Lear" would be the drama, but it seems to me that if that's the set up then the play within the play should have some relevance to the play itself, and though Lear contains madness and betrayal, the connections are tenuous at best. Anytime you let Shakespeare into the picture you raise the audience's expectations for a work that will illuminate the master's vision, or vice versa. Unfortunately, neither occurs. The study of survivors in extrema is not enhanced by the use of "King Lear," and "King Lear" is not enhanced by the situation - or the film. Too bad, because it was an interesting concept. Given that, the film is worth seeing. It's certainly better than most of what Hollywood has to offer, and is a great example of how less can be more."
Powerful film, **not** a "Lear" remake!
Danny M. Hobbs | Tigard, OR United States | 03/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
""A group of people stranded in the desert decide to stage King Lear" does not begin to summarize this powerful and challenging film, which shows how extremity reveals both flaws and strengths of our characters. One of the stranded characters, who has unresolved issues with his own daughter, attempts to convince the other characters to stage "Lear," or as much of it as he can remember and write down. This attempt proceeds haltingly against crisis incidents between the various characters and against fragmented revelations of character that have the allusive quality of Japanese haiku. Finally, the cast does not so much stage "Lear" as become "Lear."The story's resolution resonates deeply with the "Lear" theme while avoiding allegory or simplistic, one-to-one correspondences. There are disturbing, even shocking moments, and characters do not go unscathed, but there are also small moments of redemption. At the conclusion, I was left with that sense of surprise and inevitability that marks the most excellent drama. The Dogme 95 emphasis on actor improvisation worked well for me in this depiction of a situation which, in real life, would require improvisation for survival. And even with the Dogme 95 technical restrictions (available light, natural sound), this film captures the beauty and immensity of the African desert and light. One is left with a heightened awareness that our own human dramas are played out against forces, both external and internal, that are only partially under our control. Be prepared to concentrate, perhaps even view the movie more than once, to understand fully what's happening. This is **NOT** a "Hollywood rip-roarer" or love story. It **IS** one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking films I have seen in a long time."
Amazing script, performances and filmmaking
William Pryor | Kansas City United States | 08/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw "The King Is Alive" at the Halfway2Hollywood Film Festival in Kansas City earlier this year, and this weekend I had the opportunity to see it again during its regular theater run. It is well worth watching at least twice, and I plan to buy the DVD when it's released simply so I can study the editing more closely.It's an art house movie, definitely Eurpoean in flavor. If you're after big action adventure, go see a Hollywood knockoff because you won't like this film. But if you appreciate good character studies with unpredictable twists, you'll like it. This is a film that will do lousy at the box office, but people will still be watching 20 years from now."
Dogme 95 at it's best. from Jay, Cambridge Ma
M. Jay Sullivan | Cambridge, Ma | 01/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a dogme 95 film aesthetic junkie. I'm not sure if this is quite as good as "Celebration" or "Julien the Donkey Boy" in their pure "viscerality" of effect, but it has other messages that the others don't. I find very little to criticize in this film from a plot or cinematic angle. I do agree with another reviewer that the "King Lear" analogy is a bit far-fetched, but
the fact that the play itself was used to maintain a sense of civilized and group behavior was excellent.Jennifer jason Leigh's role was a breakthrough of sorts. Finally she was given
a bit of a respite from her "weirdo" roles, and her deathbed pummeling of "The old Letch" character was exceptional. Also
the viscous honesty and the primal racsism and sexism wereamong various characters was almost scary. There are so many layers of meaning in this film that one could discuss it indefinitely. Suffice it to say if you are looking for mind numbing entertainment look elsewhere, but if you want a mind stretching cinematic experience the "King is Alive" certainly does the trick.