The Five Obstructions (2003)
The Five Obstructions is a conceptual film devised by Lars von Trier, the Danish control freak director and originator of the Dogma 88 method of film making. It is a film about the creative process. Within the film he gets his friend Jorgen Leth to remake his own experimental/existential film, The Perfect Human, 5 times. Each time out there are a new set of limitations, or obstructions, like: only 12 frames per edit, no set, film in Cuba, film it as a cartoon or film in a disagreeable place, like Bombay - Hey what's wrong with Bombay?
The obstructions are developed loosely between the two men during candid and amusing discussions. Inter-cut with the film are scenes of the original Leth film, a stark B&W avant-garde movie, with its odd music score and narration: "is this the perfect human...look at him...look at him again....what is he doing....". Each film concocted is a marvel of its own and a tribute to how limitations can fuel the creative process. Leth is talented and willing, and it comes off as some type of intellectual game.
That's not to say it was not a challenge for Leth. There is a reference to him bringing valium along just in case. Then, for the fifth and last film, Leth only narrates a script written by von Trier, while von Trier himself makes the film based on the footage taken of Leth and he discussing the obstructions, and Leth making the first four films. Did you follow that?
A fascinating film. Not for all tastes, obviously. But a seldom seen and unusual view of the creative process, and the usefulness of limitations in making art.
By John Farr