The Five Obstructions: a cinematic face-off

Portraying itself as a documentary, “the five obstructions” directed by Lars Von Trier is a highly inventive and visionary film composed of a series of films and behind the scenes shots, all coming together to construct the masterpiece that is “the five obstructions”. The short film, “the  perfect human” directed by Jorgen Leth presents ordinary, day-to-day tasks done by a man and a woman separately. With the hopes of recreating Danish filmmaker, Jorgen Leth’s masterpiece, he was put to the test by another renowned filmmaker, Lars Von Trier to recreate the film under his rules— five times in five different ways and places. 

Leth and Von Trier went head-to-head throughout the film as Leth followed Lars Von Tier’s monstrous and far-fetched requests and challenges. Without a doubt, It was not a smooth ride. It is definitely not easy to re-create a film, most especially if this film was shot in the 60’s, even more when you, as the director, will be starring in this remake in different locations. Commendable and insurmountable are understatements as to how Leth was able to excellently execute Von Trier’s commands. This whole idea of reinvention has brought him to the worst/most miserable place on earth, asking him to create an animation in which he expressed his dismay for, but did it anyway, and excellently, at that. Von Trier was actually dissatisfied with what they shot in Mumbai and gave Leth two options— either to fly all the way to India and do it all over again or create a freestyle film. Despite this, Leth continued on. 

In the five obstructions, we are able to perceive the film from the creator’s perspective. It gives you a bird’s eye view on why these filmmakers work the way they do, the creative process that takes place and how everything comes together by listening to their discussions and exchange of views. We see the film unfold beautifully before us, I think that is what sets this film apart. 

Although Leth may have had a hard time with Von Trier’s challenges, the whole point of Von Trier’s ridiculous commands only led Leth to eventually step out of his comfort zone, which brought colour and vibrance to his previous masterpiece, “the perfect human“. Lars Von trier’s ridiculous requests/proposals only led Leth to create and produce another masterpiece, potentially as big or even bigger than his much acclaimed short film, “the perfect human”. More than anything, it was a work of art. The visual style of the sequences and shots were magnificent, leaving you mesmerised while watching. Leth’s style of film making was definitely put to the test in the process but in the end, he was victorious in putting the film together, successfully stepping out of his comfort zone. We see how Leth cherished and believed in control and stability, and putting him together with Von Trier’s twisted ideas defying what he valued, only resulted in a ravishing work of art. It has driven Jorgen Leth’s much esteemed spot in the film world to even greater heights with this remake. 

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