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The King is Alive

The King is Alive

The ambitions of the strikingly gritty The King is Alive can't be met by a tale that succumbs to the desert and the Dogma 95 convictions of director Kristian Levring, notable for his commercial work.  Having assembled a worthy international roster of accomplished thespians like David Bradley, Bruce Davison, Janet McTeer, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, Levring, who also co-wrote the screenplay, has verve with his camera amid the dunes and mine buildings where ten Americans and Europeans are stranded when a bus breaks down in an unspecified South African locale.  But, the bleakness and maddening feelings could have been stirred with dark comedy even if a passable staging of "King Lear" is a natural means of dealing with their despairing situation.

Not as affecting as other "Dogma" films like The Celebration, Mifune, or the bizarrely insightful The Idiots, The King is Alive mostly follows the movement's "vow of chastity" tinkering with the vast arid landscape scenery and voice-over narration.  The natural lighting, portable digital camera use and no filtered intrusions does offer a pliable presence and setting distant form capitalistic luster of cynical artistic folks.

Consequently, The King is Alive emerges as a classy cousin to CBS's Survivor, but not as compelling.  On the big screen, the Dogma approach and reality TV hasn't made an impression,  except for Series 7.

The lost bus driver, Vusi Kunene's Mosses, steers the shaky vehicle into arid barrenness and some couples and sole passengers exit and find refuge in run-down structures presided over by an elder desert-loving native named Kanana (Peter Kubheka), who provides some lyrical voice-overs in imperfect reflective mannerisms.

Jack, as vigilantly played by Miles Anderson, is the experienced one with desert savvy who tries to find help and says he'll be back in less than a week.  Nevertheless, those all left behind become raisins under the sun and act a wee peculiar with Shakespeare to keep up their spirits.

The overriding skepticism results into some naughty power games with McTeer, Brion James, Romane Bohringer's French smartly, Lia Williams, and Chris Walker acting like backstage carnivores.  In the end, Levring and his gifted ensemble can be appreciated for putting some passion into a desperate, if arresting scenario.

The King is Alive

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