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The Five Obstructions

4.5 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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(Apr 22, 2014)
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Editorial Reviews

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.

Digitally remastered.
English, Danish, French & Spanish languages with English subtitles.

Product Details

  • Actors: Lars Von Trier
  • Directors: Jorgen Leth
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Color, NTSC, Original recording remastered, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Danish, French, Spanish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Kino Lorber films
  • DVD Release Date: April 22, 2014
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00IACUOBK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,327 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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1 Comment 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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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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Format: DVD
Disclaimer: This is in no way a "conventional" film where you have your standard intro, complication, buildup, climax, resolution. Here you get to see the PROCESS, as well as the finished product. Needless to say, the process is the most challenging, and was made even more so because of the obstructions Lars van Trier imposed on Leth.

Something that I felt was very beautiful about the movie was that even though Lars van Trier seemed sadistic, he really loved his friend. He is a true friend in the sense that he wanted to push Jorgen Leth past the limits of what Leth thought he could do. In short, van Trier helped Leth to grow as a person. In the end, it was mentioned that with each obstruction, Leth grew more and more confident of himself.

After all, we are at our most creative and innovative when we are restricted by limits. How can you think "outside the box", when you are given absolute freedom?
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