Five Obstructions, The

Director: Lars Von Trier, Jørgen Leth

Denmark-Switzerland-Belgium-France| 2003. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo SR. 90 minutes.

In November 2000, Lars von Trier gave an assignment to his hero, the great Danish filmmaker Jørgen Leth. Together they would watch and discuss Leth’s 1968 short film, The Perfect Human-‘a little gem that we are going to ruin’, smirks von Trier. Leth would then set out to remake his own film, five times, with von Trier imposing a series of obstructions for each remake. Some of these are formal limitations (shots in the first film, for instance, can be no longer than twelve frames), while others assume moral, personal or even metaphysical intonations. Leth proves to be a wily opponent. The meetings between the two masters are studies in self-concealment-and frequently very funny. Von Trier’s stated goal is ‘to proceed from the perfect to the human.’ Indeed, The Five Obstructions moves from an intriguing exercise and exploration of the poetics of documentary to a personal intervention and, ultimately, a stirring self-portrait. But of whom? Neither filmmaker has yet been this exposed.

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