Perfectly Human

Imagine a trailblazing filmmaker, named Jorgen Leth back in the 1960’s, now retired and settling for a peaceful, unobtrusive life in Haiti during present time. Then suddenly, a young menacing art film director named Lars Von Trier, decides to ruin his daily routine, challenging him to recreate his superb 12-minute black and white film “The Perfect Human” that he created way, way back with the whimsical rules and limitations of Von Trier’s own concoction.


And why is this so? Maybe Von Tier wanted to see if the rusty gears in Leth’s brilliant mind was still working, despite years of unpractice. Was his mentor still able to generate flabbergasting experimental films of dogma, perfection and splendor? Would all Leth’s future works still seem to be perfect?

Maybe he just wanted to see what Leth could still add up to the plate of art cinema.

And maybe it was not perfection he was looking for because he was already used to that.

Maybe Von Tier was looking for something more profound from Leth—something more natural.

Maybe something more human.

It is enthralling to witness camaraderie between two filmmakers, one master, one student, switching roles from one moment to another, bickering over the need to set creative boundaries when creating a film.

thefiveobstructionspic2In this film, one sees how a filmmaker works around the random conditions of the weather, the location, and the cultural situation of where, when and what they are shooting. The Five Obstructions is said to be a perverse game of one-upmanship given the various situations where both would display their mastery on their crafts.

Moreover, Von Tier projects the film with a raw and clean wisp of documentary style shooting with natural lighting, sounds and shakey camera movement, showing the reality of filmmaking which is disheveled, convoluted and frustrating.

[1] A 12 frame film, [2] a film shot in the worst place on Earth without showing its misery, [3] a free-style film contradictory to Leth’s filmmaking style, and [4] an animated film which really challenged Leth— Lars Von Trier frets that his master, Leth, is attempting to make the films too good. He grouses repeatedly, desiring to see the evolution of Leth from being too perfect to being human. Von Tier expressed how everything was structured to its ultimate refinement and there was no room for flaws in Leth’s craft.

This film raises awareness about Jorgen Leth’s legacy that is not as widely recognized like the other European films that has been well-respected all through out the years. Moreover, the 5th obstruction seems to be a film created by Von Tier himself, showcasing the entire journey of Leth, remaking his piece again and again with utmost craftsmanship. The showcase of Leth’s talent in a film recreated five times over shows how an artist evolves together with his art as time progresses. And given this documentation of raw and messy and exasperating filmmaking, comes the reality of what makes a filmmaker perfectly a filmmaker and what makes a human perfectly human.






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