The Five Obstructions

When the film appeared on my watch list a few days ago, I was immediately reminded of a blogathon I joined some time back. Here was a chance to see the film that inspired the blogathon, and needless to say, I was impressed. This was fantastic! When I hear the words Lars von Trier, there’s a certain image that goes along with his body of work. I might not be versed with his filmography, but with various articles and films of his circulating around the internet, it’s hard not to make a collective assumption about his work. If I only knew him by this documentary, I would have a different image of the director.

This is about von Trier challenging Jørgen Leth to recreate his short film The Perfect Human, albeit with obstructions he must adhere to, hence the five obstructions. Each film is different from each other, with the documentary filming the production and creative process behind Jørgen Leth’s interpretation of his film with the obstructions. 

The whole idea behind it is telling of the capability of the director. There’s an added pressure that it’s his own body of work he’s recreating, and with each recreation he produces, one can see that there are different interpretations of his own work, and yet even when he thinks it’s going to be horrible or difficult to work with, it still produces some amazing results. The different obstructions Leth was given to work with added more poetic presence in his already poetic work. The message of his film is no longer one single unifying idea, but a cluster of interpretations doing justice to the unifying idea. 

At most part of the documentary, I was thinking that von Trier was quite mean as he doesn’t seem to be appreciating the efforts of his friend and instead pointing out his weaknesses. The fifth obstruction obliterates that way of thinking and is a nice end to the documentary. Both documentary and obstructions were well shot, the obstructed versions quite different from each other and yet are all beautiful pieces. I really liked the way Jørgen Leth interpreted his own work with the limitations set to him, and how through this documentary he exposes a bit of himself. 

I may not be versed with their filmography and have read many criticisms against von Trier but if you were going to give him a chance, I suggest watching this documentary. This is very different from the von Trier the public is used to, but this is also telling of his personality, as well as Leth’s, even if to some extent, it is only a glimpse.

Final Word: This was pretty good. I read that Scorsese also has his own version of this, but as far as I know, it hadn't been released.

Cast: Claus Nissen, Majken Algren Nielsen, Daniel Hernandez Rodriguez
Director: Jørgen Leth (uncredited) , Lars von Trier (uncredited) 
Year: 2003


  1. This looks interesting. I actually think a documentary on von Trier's life would be intriguing (and sad). He seems like such an incredible mess.

    1. I only know the director based on his reputation so I was really surprised that this was quite good and although it started as a bit mean, there was some reason behind it all.