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The Five Obstructions
by michelle   June 17, 2004
temple, elemental, evil

Starring: Lars von Trier and Jorgen Leth

Lars von Trier (Dogville, Dancer in the Dark) challenges his friend and mentor, documentary film veteran, Jorgen Leth (New Scenes from America, Haiti Untitled) to remake his 1967 classic The Perfect Human five times, limited by a series of obstructions the diabolical von Trier has concocted. The tone for the film is quickly set in a conversation in which von Trier explains to Leth for the first time what the goal of the project is. The perverse pleasure von Trier takes in trying to force Leth out of his domain into the realm of the imperfect and the uncomfortable is as apparent as is Leth's paternal amusement over von Trier's antics.

Each set of limitations inspires Leth to new heights of cinematic genius rather than sinking him to the depths of the banal and prosaic as is von Trier's aim. Leth even goes so far as to appear healthier and more vibrant as the film progresses, despite filming in such locations as the red light district of Bombay. The ongoing dialogue between the two is as intelligent as you would expect and is surprisingly funny. Leth's subversive maneuvers to outwit von Trier keep you smiling even as you are awed by his talent.

The fifth obstruction is von Trier's final attempt to show the imperfect, human side of Leth. The elder director is forced to read a letter written to von Trier, written by von Trier. The proxy missive narrates footage of Leth taken throughout the filmmaking process. Even this attempt serves to further venerate the enigmatic Leth.


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