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Overall Rating
4.2

Awesome: 20%
Worth A Look80%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 7 user ratings


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Five Obstructions, The
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by Brian McKay

"What better way to improve on a film than to remake it five times?"
4 stars

Directorial pissing contests, especially good-natured ones, can be fun to watch. A few months ago, I was able to see the DUEL PROJECT, where Japanese directors Ryuhei Kitamura (ARAGAMI) and Yukihiko Tsutsumi (2LDK) pitted their films against one another to see who could deliver the best “duel to the death” action movie. The competition added an extra dynamic that brought out the best in each filmmaker, and made things more exciting for the audience as well. But Danish directors Lars Von Trier (co-founder of the Dogme ’95 Manifesto) and Jorgen Leth take things to the next level with THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS.

Although both of these directors are known for making obscure art films that none but the most hardcore cinephiles or film students have likely ever heard of, it’s easy to see that both men know the craft of filmmaking inside-out. So when Von Trier challenges Leth to remake his 1967 film The Perfect Human five times, but to Von Trier’s specifications, Leth accepts the gauntlet that Von Trier throws down. But with each retelling of the tale, the obstructions Von Trier places in Leth’s path become increasingly bizarre.

First he orders him to shoot it in Cuba, using no edit that is longer than 12 frames. Although Von Trier is sure the 12-frame rule will trip his friend up, Leth manages to pull it off with style. “I see that the 12 frame rule was really a gift,” Von Trier admits. “That’s how I looked at it,” Leth smugly replies (although earlier we see him stressing over how impossible he thinks the 12 frame edits will be).

Each time the challenges grow more difficult, and the rules more nebulous. By the fourth time, Von Trier has Leth re-making it as a cartoon (after both men have admitted that they hate cartoons). Not only does Leth pull it off again, but Von Trier actually likes it!

Although the game of The Five Obstructions occasionally seems like an exercise in artistic wankery, It’s amazing to see how Leth rises to the challenge each time, somehow turning the seemingly impossible restrictions placed upon him into an opportunity for an entirely new form of artistic expression. Although The Perfect Human, and its subsequent experimental remixes, can get a bit slow and pretentious at times, it’s still fascinating to see the artistic and competitive process at work, and the human capacity for improvisation and re-interpretation. The film is at its most engaging when Von Trier and Leth are seated in conversation, and their friendship really shines through their good-natured barbs and analytical discussions.

THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS is definitely a must-see for anyone interested in filmmaking, or merely the creative process in general. And although the competition was conducted in the spirit of fun and artistic growth, wouldn’t it be a fitting punishment if we could force bad directors to remake some of their films five times? Hell, we might even get a respectable version of PEARL HARBOR out of Michael Bay, with the first obstruction being “Do not turn a historical tragedy into a lame and overwrought love story”

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8568&reviewer=258
originally posted: 04/28/04 09:40:14
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 San Francisco Film Festival. For more in the 2004 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/09/05 DM Occasionally pretentious, but fun and fascinating to watch. 4 stars
9/12/04 Butt Just see it! 5 stars
4/29/04 von Not to be missed by fans of either director, potential filmmakers, or simply fans of cinema 5 stars
4/26/04 stenobabe amazing, fun, insightful 4 stars
4/21/04 Cameron Slick I saw it there at Oak Street Cinema too, it was awesome 5 stars
4/20/04 Joey Tam It give a great inspiration to me!! 5 stars
4/12/04 Hilarium As a film buff, I totally enjoyed this. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  06-Jun-2004 (NR)
  DVD: 05-Oct-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  08-Sep-2005


Directed by
  Lars Von Trier
  Jorgen Leth

Written by
  Lars Von Trier
  Jorgen Leth

Cast
  Lars Von Trier
  Jorgen Leth



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