THE KING IS ALIVE Image

THE KING IS ALIVE

By admin | April 30, 2001

Finally, the fourth of the original Dogme 95 “vow of chastity” signatory directors releases his effort, a mixed bag that shines technically and conceptually, but doesn’t quite work. We’re in the Namibian desert with a busload of tourists who have been rerouted overland for some reason. The driver (Kunene) doesn’t exactly instil confidence in his 10 passengers, and indeed they get horribly lost, the bus breaks down and they’re trapped in an abandoned mining town that’s slowly filling up with sand. The one local resident (Kubheka) isn’t much help either. So the most adventurous (Anderson) goes for help, while another (Bradley), a former actor, suggests they put on Shakespeare’s King Lear to kill the time. Soon the play is blurring the lines of relationships that were strained long before this crisis.
It’s kind of an improv Survivor, complete with nightly bonfire, as teamwork gives way to jealousies, suspicions and fear. Some of this is fascinating–Leigh gives her least mannered performance in years as a brash Yank; Davison and McTeer are terrific as a married couple brimming with bitterness; Calder, Walker and Williams are a fascinatingly strained father/son/daughter-in-law. While other characters are barely there–Bohringer’s French bookworm; James’ frail Lear-like businessman. But the real problem is the way the story tries so hard to incorporate Shakespearean themes. This simply doesn’t work, leaving the film both forced and pointless. And despite astonishing camera work and editing, it just gets duller and duller even as the story is supposedly heating up. This is a shame because the acting does frequently get beneath the script’s wafer-thin story. But instead of coming together cleverly in the end, it simply falls to bits.

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