Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
Sweden/Denmark/USA, 2000. Newmarket Capital Group, Good Machine, Zentropa Entertainments, Danmarks Radio, SVT Drama, TV2 Norge, Yleisradio, Nordisk Film- & TV-Fond, Det Danske Filminstitut. Screenplay by Kristian Levring, Anders Thomas Jensen, with inspiration from the play King Lear by William Shakespeare. Cinematography by Jens Schlosser. Produced by Svend Abrahamsen, Patricia Kruijer, Vibeke Windelov. Music by Derek Thompson. Production Design by Simon Bang. Costume Design by Rosa Diaz. Film Editing by Nicholas Wayman-Harris. Toronto International Film Festival 2000.
Shakespeare comes easily to the desperate when a group of American tourists and their African driver are stranded after their bus breaks down in the middle of the Sahara desert. Left alone in a ghost village with no means of sustenance or communication, the group need to fend off the elements and avoid turning on each other by keeping their spirits up with an impromptu production of King Lear. None of them are actually actors, however (the big joke in the film is watching fantastic performers like Janet McTeer and Jennifer Jason Leigh trying to read dialogue as if they’ve never done it before) and the exercise keeps threatening to turn futile until their situation becomes so desperate that the Bard’s verses take on genuine meaning for them. While it presents a fascinating premise, the whole thing feels like a collection of deleted scenes from a DVD special features section; none of the dialogue or action amounts to anything, and even the great performances do very little to make it more than a wearing exercise in style.