The Five Obstructions (2003)

6 Mar

Review of The 5 Obstructions

Director Jørgen Leth made the art film The Perfect Human in 1967. It looks at a man and a woman and what makes them perfect. It shows how they dance, eat, what their ears and other body parts look like. The movie is considered an art house movie which almost feel like an anthropological study. I have never seen it myself, but this documentary/film hybrid shows parts of that original film. Director Lars von Trier had the idea to work with Jørgen Leth and asked him to remake parts of The Perfect Human, but each time with an obstruction in place. Working with restrictions can push people to come with ingenious solutions (as the movie Apollo 13 shows) and The Five Obstructions also shows the results of that.

Review of The 5 Obstructions

The end result turns out to be very interesting as it pushes the director to extremes in order to be able to meet each obstruction. The first obstruction he is given is to shoot in Cuba and have each shot only last 12 frames while answering all the questions he posed in his original film. A second one is to shoot in the worst place in the world, but not show that place. The other obstructions are just as interesting and it results in completely different movies based on the same premise.

Review of The 5 Obstructions

As you are watching it you see both the creation process and the end result and you see how Leth is struggling to meet the obstructions and make something which will please von Trier. The two are a good match for each other and play off each other nicely. Whether you are a filmmaker or someone who just watches movies, it is a documentary you should check out as it proves that restrictions can bring out the best of you. If that wasn’t the case the crew of Apollo 13 would have never made it back. Martin Scorcese has agreed to also do the same and the shooting of his version of The Five Obstructions was started, but it has not been announced when this will be available.


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