The Five Obstructions

2003 [DANISH]


Plot summary

Uploaded by: FREEMAN

Top cast

Lars von Trier Photo
Lars von Trier as Self / Obstructor
Patrick Bauchau Photo
Patrick Bauchau as The Perfect Man / Voice-over
720p.WEB 1080p.WEB
803.9 MB
Danish 2.0
25 fps
1 hr 27 min
P/S 5 / 19
1.46 GB
Danish 2.0
25 fps
1 hr 27 min
P/S 11 / 44

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Chris_Docker10 / 10

A self-examining work of art that is greater than its constituent parts

Many documentaries stand back from their subject, to portray it 'objectively', or else throw themselves into it with a fervour with which they hope to carry along the audience. The Five Obstructions is very different, turning in on itself to examine the creative process of film-making in a self-revelatory way that packs both instructive, artistic merit and emotional punch.

Lars von Trier is one of the founders of the Danish school of film-making (or collective) called Dogme 95. He instituted the idea of fairly arbitrary rules (the so-called 'Ten Commandments') as a possible route to more intrinsic cinema, avoiding the technological excesses and hollowness of Hollywood style movies. While there are similarities with the Dogme approach, Five Obstructions is not a 'Dogme' film: but it looks at the idea of rules as a means of stimulating the creative process.

The starting point is a early film short by Trier's old mentor, Jørgen Leth, called The Perfect Human. It is a seemingly anthropological movie where a human being (a man, switching occasionally to a woman) does various basic actions, walking, dressing, eating, undressing, jumps, dances, and a voice over says how we are going to "see the perfect human being in action". There is the occasional introspective line where the character ponders, "Today, too, I had an experience that I hope I shall understand in a few days' time." We see Trier (who considers himself an expert on very few things in life but Leth is one of them) in conversation with Leth. The latter accepts a challenge from Trier to remake the film five times, but each time with a different set of conditions imposed by Trier – who will then judge how successfully Leth has succeeded in the task. The atmosphere is almost like a PhD student and tutor, yet although Trier obviously holds Leth in very high regard, it is Leth who is undergoing the teaching.

Through successive shoots, Trier makes Leth confront that which he most dislikes. He compares the process to when he is directing an actor, forcing a performance from the actor that the actor didn't know was within them. In the first four takes, we see Leth produce something that is artistically worthy with even the most daunting physical and psychological obstructions, but it is in the final obstruction that Trier produces a cathartic effect, turning the tables so thoroughly on Leth and himself that the result is greater than both of them. Instead of a documentary about a film about how a perfect human being works, it becomes a documentary about how a perfect film maker works.

The ending justifies the rather long and mentally tiring prelude. The overall result is a lasting testament on a particular way of reaching the creative process, and also a documentary testament to Trier's own particular genius. There is no artifice, no hype, only two people of great artistic integrity working together to pull something from their subconscious of lasting greatness.

Reviewed by film-critic10 / 10

Eat your heart out "reality" television!

After watching this film all I could think about was how I would love to take this premise and use it on some of America's finest directors. Money, power, and wealth. These are just some of the elements that you gain by having a blockbuster film, but can you take your pride and joy and transform it into different avenues while still keeping the overall tone the same? It is a tough question, one that I wonder if our American directors could accomplish. I wonder if Peter Jackson, Spielberg, or Lucas could take their prized collections and still have the creative mind to make the same film with some 'obstructions'? My initial answer would be 'no', but I wouldn't mind seeing them try.

This film was brilliant to say the least. I went into it without really knowing anything about Jorgen Leth, and finished wanting to see more of his work. I was impressed with his original film The Perfect Human and thought that his four remakes were nothing short of outstanding. Each one was perfect in its own right and yet somehow was able to continue the overall themes and elements. They were works of a genius. This leads me to another question I had while watching this film. Did Trier know that Leth could do this? Trier was once a student of Leth and considers him to be the best director our there, he must have known that Leth could accomplish such tasks. In fact, I think this may have been Trier's way of allowing a new generation to experience the brilliant mind of Leth. Trier pushed Leth to new levels, but I think in a way he knew that Leth would be able to overcome and provide some new and beautiful shots. Trier seemed like a very hard nosed person in this film, and that he constantly ordered, instead of asking his subject to do things. I think we witnessed Trier in his original form. Kidman has reported as saying that Trier is very difficult to work for and I think it is because of the way that Trier works. Very similar to Gilliam, Trier has the vision in his mind. He knows how he wants the scene to play out, and unless it works just as much as it did in his mind, he will not be happy. Why not? It is his film. Some actors and others in the business call it insanity, but I think it is the talent of a beautiful director. That is why I am a fan of both Trier and Gilliam, and now Leth.

While it is interesting to see these two directors work against and for each other, the ultimate enjoyment is the different renditions of The Perfect Human. Giving a director the tasks that Trier did may force some of the themes and elements of original short to be lost in the shuffle; Leth never allows that to happen. It is amazing to see the similarities, yet subtle differences between the original and the new. Each of them work and give such a intense new spin on the story. Within all of this we begin to see the themes leaving the work, and coming straight at these directors. Trier is trying to show that Leth is just as human and emotional as the subject in his film. In fact, Trier even shows that Leth is as human and emotional as himself. They way this is shown is very subtle, but it is there. We are working with two different filmmakers. One is young and a very prominent name in cinema, while the other is aging and as generations continues to gap, losing followers to his film. Trier wanted, and does, show that there is little difference between himself and Leth. They are both humans. They are both full of emotion.

My favorite scene was when Trier mentions to Leth that he wants Leth to feel like a 'tortoise on his back'. He wants Leth to experience hardship and struggle, perhaps even frustration, and therefore Trier gives him the cartoon obstruction. In a very mocking fashion, Leth happens to put a tortoise in the film. The ball is in your court, von Trier.

Overall, this is an amazing film. I am an enormous fan of short films, and to see little snippets of Leth's mind was exciting and revolutionary. I recommend this film to anyone that is fed up with the lack of creativity in the 'reality' based television series and long for something more artistic. This film reminded me of walking through an art museum and seeing several works from Leth. It is a place I would never want to leave.

Grade: ***** out of *****

Reviewed by paul2001sw-19 / 10

Obstrucive brilliance!

Lars von Trier is an unusual director, in that he makes films of massive emotional intensity, and yet also appears interested in formal innovation for its own sake: the Dogme manifesto, of which he was co-author, suggested that films should be made according to certain rules, partly for the expected benefits of following them, but also for the benefits of simply being constrained (a philosophy resembling that of Georges Perec and the Oulipop group of novelists). In some ways, 'The Five Obstructions' is both the perfect demonstration of this attitude, and also his strangest film yet. Jorgen Leth is a director who made, in 1967, von Trier's favourite film, an innovative (but arguably cold) short called 'The Perfect Human'; in 'The Five Obstructions', Leth agrees to remake this film in five different ways, subject to constraints imposed by von Trier. The story of his doing so, along with excerpts from all six films, comprises this one. It's the ultimate recursive project, a "making-of" documentary with itself as both subject and object, an effect enhanced by the way that each film becomes a commentary on, and an extension of, its predecessors. von Trier does not dare, however, to suggest he can improve on the original; on the contrary, he professes to hope that his obstructions will force Leth to make a bad film, and therefore reveal something more of his own emotions than have hitherto been shown. In this, however, he fails. 'The Five Obstructions' becomes a film-making masterclass, as Leth continually finds something new to say in spite of the increasing restrictions against him saying anything; his natural inventiveness, and skill, make you want to see the films he has chosen to make for himself. von Trier, by contrast, appears as a fool, although as the resulting documentary is his creation, he is maybe not as foolish as he appears. Indeed, there's almost certainly an unavoidable level of artifice in the apparently "real" scenes where the two men talk, each are too skilled as film-makers to be wholly unaware of what they are doing. But there does seem to be a real human story, as Leth's enthusiasm for his task, and for life itself, is driven upwards by the series of apparently insane challenges with which he is encumbered. It's an odd film for anyone to make, but maybe proves von Trier's point; for what stands above the contrivance is pure gold.

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