When we were told that we were going to watch a “docu-film” kind of movie, The Five Obstructions was not what I had in mind. Truth be told, I was not excited to watch the film mainly because documentaries are one of my least favorite film genres. There is just a slowness to it that never sits well with me because my attention span is very short and I get distracted easily. However, I realized that it was going to be a little different from the documentaries I am used to right when the film began and showed the man dancing in a white space, or as they liked to call him, “The Perfect Human”.
On the surface level, the relationship between Leth and Von Trier is the typical mentor-mentee relationship. It seemed a little ironic because the in their case, the mentee was telling the mentor what he should do and not the other way around. In the movie, Von Trier, the mentee, was daring his mentor, Leth, to remake his past film, “The Perfect Human”, in five different ways with various “obstructions”.
The obstruction that struck me the most was the second one where he was tasked to remake the film in the most miserable place in the world without actually showing the misery of the location. It did not even strike me in the way that it should have if I were looking at it from the most objective point of view possible. I found the scene memorable because of the story of the scene itself — there is a man living lavishly with a full meal in front of him while there are poor people behind him watching him eat. This scene was honestly so heartbreaking for me (even though I know it was not the intention of the scene to make me feel sad) because it targeted a group of people very close to my heart — the poor. They made it look like the man (Leth) was flaunting his wealth and resources in front of all these people and isolating himself from them at the same time using the wall between them. Throughout the scene, the only thing I was thinking of was: if this is what it entails to be “the perfect human”, then I would rather live imperfectly.
Another thing that struck me in the same obstruction is the obstruction in itself. It was probably just a part of the creative process for them, but it showed me a different reality altogether. It reminded me of the fact that films often only show parts and not the whole. For example, films make use of the beautiful scenery in the Philippines which shows how pleasing to the eyes the country seems, but behind all that is poverty and marginalization. Yes, sure, it was simply a challenge for Leth, but it was also able to showcase a reality in films and the media today.
The Five Obstructions may have had different intentions and motives behind the film, but it was able to bring out a different insight from me, especially from the second obstruction. It was not difficult for me to relate it to the real world today which was why I was able to come up with these opinions. The remakes seemed surreal, oh-so fictional and maybe even borderline insane, but if it were watched closely, it would be possible to relate it to our reality.