The film and media industry is truly competitive and intimidating for majority of the people in the field are, let’s just say, attention-hungry, fame-thirsty, and perhaps, even greedy. However, who can really blame them? It takes years and years to master a skill in writing a perfect screenplay, learning how to expertly use a professional camera, figuring out how to portray a hundred characters on stage, and even set design takes a long time to master and learn. The Five Obstructions (2004) is a “documentary” shot film that shows two Danish film makers and directors having the sparring battle of their life: creating a perfect “The Perfect Human” through Von Trier’s unconventional remake of Leth’s short film.
“…a little gem that we are now going to ruin,”
The film was playful and interesting for the way it was shot and sequenced was pretty new and unconventional. The two characters of the story were also quite the personalities, with their competitiveness and confident arrogance battling against each other. Von Trier, already being a successful man, grew more and more and more frustrated with how Leth was still handling the obstructions he offered with much grace and expertise, causing him to push for more drastic conditions and limitations in an attempt to ruin his efforts. Honestly, it was quite a relief and it was entertaining to witness the constant failing attempts of Von Trier to ruin Leth’s career with his obstructions, and how Leth continues to stay composed throughout it all. To what extent could he finally make Leth spiral down and ruin his perfect film of “The Perfect Human”? The ways he tried to do so were very entertaining and amusing, nonetheless.
As someone who is pursuing film and media as well, the struggle to come up with perfection after every content made and produced and created rings true to this day and age. Especially in this day and age, actually. The competition out in the creative field becomes stronger and stronger as more developments and more ideas are coming to life, and the struggle that Von Trier showcased is something very relatable as well to a lot of people in the creatives. Von Trier seemed to have always been chasing something that was perfect, grand, excellent, brilliant, and great, and to witness someone of perfect composure and graceful expertise can shake one’s confidence. However, in the process of trying to ruin Leth through the obstructions and the limitations, he just allowed Leth to become more and more free to create something that was ultimately better than the ones before it. It was in this spontaneity that perfection was born out of. And perhaps, that’s something pretty hard to grasp as well. I really felt for Von Trier’s constant frustration, which may have been amusing at the same time, but pitiful nonetheless. I empathized with his struggles, however, still applauding Leth for his constant bouncing back.
This is a film about a game that just keeps going wrong for the game master, and sometimes, there are just certain things that we have to let go of. Remember: there is always a loser in competition. What a battle, indeed.