The Five Obstructions (2003)
"De fem benspænd" (original title)

Unrated  |   |  Documentary  |  21 November 2003 (Denmark)
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About a filmmaker not only revisiting, but also recreating (not in a conventional sense) one of his first films, The Perfect Human / Det perfekte menneske (1967)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Claus Nissen ...
The Perfect Man - from 'Det perfekte menneske' 1967 (archive footage)
Majken Algren Nielsen ...
The Perfect Woman, from 'Det perfekte menneske' 1967) (archive footage) (as Maiken Algren)
Daniel Hernandez Rodriguez ...
The Perfect Man (segment "Obstruction #1 - The Perfect Human: Cuba")
Jacqueline Arenal ...
The Perfect Woman (segment "Obstruction #1 - The Perfect Human: Cuba")
Vivian Rosa
Voice-over (from "Det perfekte menneske" 1967) / Himself - Director (segments "The Conversations") / Voice-over (segment "The Perfect Human: Cuba," segment "The Perfect Human: Bombay," segment "The Perfect Human: Cartoon") / Himself -The Perfect Man - Voice-over (segment "The Perfect Human: Avedøre, Denmark")
The Perfect Man / Voice-over (segment "The Perfect Human: Brunelles Brussels") / Speaker (segment "Obstruction #4 - The Perfect Human: Cartoon")
The Perfect Woman (segment "The Perfect Human: Brunelles Brussels")
Marie Dejaer ...
Maid (segment "The Perfect Human: Brunelles Brussels")
Pascal Perez ...
Couple (Man) (segment "The Perfect Human: Brunelles Brussels")
Meschell Perez ...
Couple (Woman) (segment "The Perfect Human: BrunellesBrussels")
Bent Christensen ...
Gangster (from "Det gode og det onde" 1975) (segment "The Perfect Human: Cartoon" (archive footage)
Naked Man (from "Notater om kærligheden" 1989) ( fsegment "The Perfect Human: Cartoon" (archive footage)
Charlotte Sieling ...
Naked Woman (from "Notater om kærligheden" 1989) ( segment "The Perfect Human: Cartoon" (archive footage)
Man with Jacket (from "Notater om kærligheden" 1989) ( segment "Obstruction #4 - The Perfect Human (archive footage)


"The Five Obstructions", a 100 min. theatre documentary directed by Lars von Trier and Jørgen Leth. An investigative journey into the phenomenon of "documentary", based on manifestos written by each director. About a filmmaker not only revisiting, but also recreating (not in a conventional sense) one of his first films, The Perfect Human / Det perfekte menneske (1967), a document on life in Denmark, containing the familiar Leth idiosyncrasies Written by

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Release Date:

21 November 2003 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

As Cinco Obstruções  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$13,040 (USA) (28 May 2004)


$92,221 (USA) (2 July 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


(archive footage)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The song played during The Perfect Human: Havana is "Planting the Seed" by David Holmes, which was also used in Ocean's 11 and appears on that movie's soundtrack. See more »


References The Perfect Human (1967) See more »

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User Reviews

This is how the perfect human falls
11 September 2003 | by (Toronto) – See all my reviews

Debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival 2003 The Five Obstructions is a whimsical yet deeply philosophical dialogue between Lars Van Trier and Jørgen Leth, one of Lars Van Trier's director heroes.

The movie is based upon the reconstruction of Leth's 1967 work The Perfect Human ( De Fem benspænd ). This 1967 black and white film is starkly minimalist and humourous detailing a Danish point of view - an analysis of a perfect human and how the perfect human acts and interacts with the world. Within the film are two characters : a man and a woman each shot separately and each probed by the camera. How the perfect human eats. How the perfect human lies down. How he falls. This is the human eye. This is the perfect human's ear, eye, knee.

The Perfect Human is the perfect film.

The dialogue between Leth and Van Trier shot in the year 2001 is humourous and philosophical. Van Trier sets out to challenge Leth by making his recreate The Perfect Human but under Van Trier's terms.

The first obstruction for instance is to have shots with no more than 12 frames each, it has to be shot in Cuba and with no set. The audience laughs as each point of the obstruction is set upon the screen.

The camera crew follows Leth around the world and records his reactions to the challenge and the process of how he sets to film the First Obstructions in Cuba. He finds the concept of 12 frames monumentously crazy. He has to find the perfect humans to cast in the country, a country he has never been to. He comes back to Denmark and they view the result: an exquisite little film which is surprising and beautiful.

The rest of the film poses the rest of the Five Obstructions - each a result of Van Trier's subsequent reactions to the films that Leth brings back.

The conversation between the two is akin to a psychoanalyst and his patient yet the two are friends. There is much laughter and delight and the results of the five obstructions are pristinely beautiful. You also get to see Van Trier's ego at work and the wheels spinning as Leth responds to the challenge. The overall film of The Five Obstructions in itself is a delight and a learning experience that should not be missed.

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