The Five Obstructions (2003)

Unrated   |    |  Documentary


The Five Obstructions (2003) Poster

Filmmaker Lars Von Trier challenges Jørgen Leth, the filmmaker behind The Perfect Human (1967), to remake his classic short under circumstances of increasing constraint.


7.5/10
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Cast & Crew

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Directors:

Jørgen Leth , Lars von Trier

Writers:

Sophie Destin (poem), Asger Leth (script), Jørgen Leth (script), Lars von Trier (script)

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10 October 2004 | film-critic
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 *****

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