After watching various European films from the 60s, The Five Obstructions was a refreshing take on European cinema. The Five Obstructions is a film about making film. Although it is considered a relatively modern documentary, it still goes back to a film from the past. Lars Von Trier, the actual director of the documentary, challenged Jorgen Leth, the director of the film The Perfect Human, to remake his own film multiple times given certain obstructions.
The original The Perfect Human was shown at the beginning of the documentary and I had mixed thoughts about it. The film was quite peculiar, showing multiple clips of people doing random things such as eating, lying down on the bed, and even jumping. The film did not make sense to me at first. However, after pondering about it as the documentary progressed, I realized that Leth was trying to show that the “perfect human” is basically all people. The film was simply trying to show people in their natural habitat. There can never be just one true perfect human as all of us are all human with our own respective characteristics.
All the obstructions Trier gave to Leth were given with the intention to make life hard for Leth. Trier’s obstructions for his fellow director tested Leth’s prowess for film making. Obstruction after obstruction, Leth always delivered a film, however, it was not always to Trier’s liking. Although all the films Leth made were arguably also great films, there was an instance wherein he was not able to fully understand one of Trier’s obstructions. While watching the film, Leth’s artistry amazed me. The original The Perfect Human was somewhat dull but that certainly changed for the new films he made. It is astonishing to see how a director could come up with different ways of making the film, yet all still share the same message. Whether the film was done as a cartoon or in one of the worst slums of Bombay, Leth was effectively able to show Trier that he could overcome all challenges directly targeting his character. Moreover, the film also showed that despite having a great overall film, it is impossible to please everyone. Every film is really up to the audience’s judgement.
In the end, Trier made the last film with the 5th obstruction of not letting Leth do anything aside from making him be the voice of the narrative. Honestly, I am not sure whether documentary itself is supposed to be part of the 5th obstruction film or whether it could be considered as the “6th obstruction.” Nevertheless, the entire documentary was a great way for Trier to show respect for Leth and his work. It was evident that The Perfect Human was not forgotten over time. The documentary shows Leth’s competence and commitment during the supposedly unseen processes of film making. It shows the possible challenges these people face on a regular day. It leads the audience to appreciate the minds behind the industry, showing what dedication is being put for our entertainment.