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The Five Obstructions


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The Five Obstructions + Breaking the Waves (Criterion Collection) (Blu-ray + DVD)
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Product Details

  • Actors: Jacqueline Arenal, Patrick Bauchau, Bent Christensen, Marie Dejaer, Stina Ekblad
  • Directors: Jørgen Leth
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Enhanced, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Danish, English, French, Spanish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Koch Lorber Films
  • DVD Release Date: October 5, 2004
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002KPI3C
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,305 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Five Obstructions" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Leth's 1967 short film "The Perfect Human"

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS, THE

Amazon.com

Once upon a time--1967, to be precise--Danish director Jørgen Leth released The Perfect Human. In The Five Obstructions, fellow countryman Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves) challenges his "hero" to remake the short five times and provides a different set of "obstructions" for each. Because Leth likes cigars, von Trier suggests the first be made in Cuba. For the second, however, he sends Leth to "the worst place on earth"--Bombay's red light district. The obstructions keep coming, interspersed with conversation and clips from the original film, in which actors engage in a variety of activities, like eating and dancing, while the narrator posits oblique questions like "Why is joy so whimsical?" (Von Trier claims to have watched it "at least 20 times.") In the end, the two Danes have whipped up an unclassifiable concoction that plays less like documentary and more like a duel between friendly adversaries. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Customer Reviews

Leth intimates that von Trier fails, because he does in fact realize that he is merely an "abject, human human."
Daniel B. Clendenin
This movie is not ABOUT the abject experiment of recreating a short film under different circumstances (or "obstructions") by a great director.
Jim Winterbourne
He knows how he wants the scene to play out, and unless it works just as much as it did in his mind, he will not be happy.
A. Gyurisin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A. Gyurisin on October 10, 2004
Format: DVD
After watching this film all I could think about was how I would love to take this premise and use it on some of America's finest directors. Money, power, and wealth. These are just some of the elements that you gain by having a blockbuster film, but can you take your pride and joy and transform it into different avenues while still keeping the overall tone the same? It is a tough question, one that I wonder if our American directors could accomplish. I wonder if Peter Jackson, Spielberg, or Lucas could take their prized collections and still have the creative mind to make the same film with some "obstructions"? My initial answer would be "no", but I wouldn't mind seeing them try.

This film was brilliant to say the least. I went into it without really knowing anything about Jorgen Leth, and finished wanting to see more of his work. I was impressed with his original film The Perfect Human and thought that his four remakes were nothing short of outstanding. Each one was perfect in its own right and yet somehow was able to continue the overall themes and elements. They were works of a genius. This leads me to another question I had while watching this film. Did Trier know that Leth could do this? Trier was once a student of Leth and considers him to be the best director our there, he must have known that Leth could accomplish such tasks. In fact, I think this may have been Trier's way of allowing a new generation to experience the brilliant mind of Leth. Trier pushed Leth to new levels, but I think in a way he knew that Leth would be able to overcome and provide some new and beautiful shots. Trier seemed like a very hard nosed person in this film, and that he constantly ordered, instead of asking his subject to do things. I think we witnessed Trier in his original form.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jim Winterbourne on February 7, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I don't write many "reviews" on Amazon -often because I see my own thoughts expressed in bits and pieces throughout the others, and I figure people will have their own instincts largely developed anyway.

On this subject I differ. I rented the movie & immediately wanted to find out if I could purchase it (& whether it was abnormally expensive, like some art films can be). In looking through the other reviews, I was glad to see strong appreciation...but startled to perceive that so many people seemed to miss the point of the film.

This movie is not ABOUT the abject experiment of recreating a short film under different circumstances (or "obstructions") by a great director. Yes, that's superficially what happens (and yes, as others have said, the original & remakes are profoundly masterful & captivating).

But the "heart" of this movie lies in the student reaching out a helpful hand to a depressed and reclusive director -who the student truly loves.

The student (now an accomplished director himself) creates this set of obstructions for his teacher in order to reinvigorate the old man -to bring him new challenges of life, intellect, and craft, and ultimatley to pay tribute to the mentor he so admires.

We, as the audience, get to watch this in documentary style. We also get to see the four film versions (and the original) that the master-teacher comes up with. But as the movie draws to an end, we see that the experiments of film-making were not the real point.

Indeed the fifth version of "The Perfect Human" is made as a tribute to the teacher by the student! It involves very telling film-narratives of the teacher in action. We see his humanity, his patience, his intensity -all as told by the student.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Neal Alexander on February 20, 2005
Format: DVD
A masterpiece, but who is the master? Von Trier the 'obstructor' or Leth, his friend and former teacher?

Don't be put off (as I was) by the structure, in which Leth is challenged to remake one of his 1960s experimental films, subject to a series of constraints imposed by von Trier. It sounds like a recipe for self-indulgent intellectual backslapping, and my expectations were low when the first 'obstruction' was a limit of 12 frames (half a second) on the length of each shot. But when, to von Trier's stifled dismay, Leth produces a beautifully rhythmical and sensual response, I realised I was watching something special. The sheer talent of the principals, driven by each's urge to prove themself equal to the other, makes this a fascinating exploration not just of creativity but also friendship.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Cesar Diaz on October 29, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I didn't know who Jorgen Leth was prior to watching this film. I did know however Mr. Lars Von Trier, and against all judgments, I didn't regard him as the great filmmaker some say he is. I actually didn't like the way he made anything he touched look so dirty (cinematically speaking). Now, as biased as this might sound, now I have to say: If you watch one Lars Von Trier film, I hope you watch this one. I guess the reason is contrast: this time, the subject of Von Trier's experiments is a stylist. Danish director and then honorary consul to Haiti, Leth is not only Von Trier's mentor, but also the director of an interesting black and white short film called "The Perfect Human" (1967), which is the excuse for Von Trier's daring and oddly loving obstructions. Leth will have to re-do his film five times, each with an inviolable set of rules imposed by Von Trier. Leth wants to keep his integrity as an artist against Von Trier's bet: that Leth will only take flight when he fails both as an artist and as a human being. This only explains the way the match starts. I hope you watch the movie, see how it ends, and make your own conclussions. I'd only like to say one more thing. Nestor Almendros, the Spanish cinematographer of Terrence Malick's "Days of Heaven", once said the talent of an artist lies in making effects out of defects. Which is another way to say that in the face of obstruction, a true artist will smile and go on. This movie is also about that.
I also gave this film five stars because of the DVD. Although very compressed for HD view, you'll have the chance to watch Leth's original 1967 "The Perfect Human". It doesn't come filled with extras, but it's a clean presentation.
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