Five Obstructions

Movie Review by Neil Ryan

Starring: Jørgen Leth, Lars von Trier, Alexandra Vandernoot, Jacqueline Arenal, Patrick Bauchau
Directors: Jørgen Leth, Lars von Trier

In 1967 Danish film director Jorgen Leth made an enigmatic short film called THE PERFECT HUMAN. In 2002 he was asked to remake it. Five times. However, each film was to be subject to a different set of rules and constraints (the Five Obstructions of the title). These obstructions were devised by the current kingpin of Danish cinema, Lars Von Trier. They range from quirky (one of the films can only feature scenes lasting a maximum of twelve frames each), to awkward (one film is to be shot in the red light district of Bombay), to artistically challenging (one entire film must be animated).

As a film student Von Trier was a big fan of THE PERFECT HUMAN and his idea to construct a documentary around such a mischievous post-modern conceit is partially intended to showcase the extent of his mentor’s abilities. But THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS is more than a mere study of the mind games two friends subject each other to in the cause of their shared art; it also stands as a portrait of Leth at work, highlighting what a thoughtful and original director he is, and it provides a valuable insight into the filmmaking process. Of only limited interest to Joe Public THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS will no doubt prove to be a model of inspiration and aspiration for future generations of eager, energetic, and enthusiastic film students.

4 out of 6 stars

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