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

Unrated  |   |  Documentary  |  21 November 2003 (Denmark)
7.5
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 5,995 users   Metascore: 79/100
Reviews: 37 user | 82 critic | 22 from Metacritic.com

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)

Directors:

(uncredited) , (uncredited)

Writers:

(poem), (script), 7 more credits »
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Documentary

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Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Martin Scorsese, Lars von Trier
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Cast

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")
Alexandra Vandernoot ...
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)
Jan Nowicki ...
Man with Jacket (from "Notater om kærligheden" 1989) ( segment "Obstruction #4 - The Perfect Human (archive footage)
Edit

Storyline

"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 jordan.savel@filmbyen.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Language:

| | |

Release Date:

21 November 2003 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

As Cinco Obstruções  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

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

Gross:

$92,221 (USA) (2 July 2004)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(archive footage)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

During one of the conversation segments in the documentary Lars von Trier and Jørgen Leth agree that Leth will receive full credit for the fifth and final Obstruction entitled "The Perfect Human: Avedøre, Denmark" despite not directing it, and that Trier will receive none, although he will direct it. This, apparently, is within the rules of the game played out by the two directors during the documentary, and serves as an inside joke. See more »

Connections

Edited from The Perfect Human (1967) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A self-examining work of art that is greater than its constituent parts
22 December 2004 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Many documentaries stand back from their subject, to portray it 'objectively', or else throw themselves into it with a fervour with which they hope to carry along the audience. The Five Obstructions is very different, turning in on itself to examine the creative process of film-making in a self-revelatory way that packs both instructive, artistic merit and emotional punch.

Lars von Trier is one of the founders of the Danish school of film-making (or collective) called Dogme 95. He instituted the idea of fairly arbitrary rules (the so-called 'Ten Commandments') as a possible route to more intrinsic cinema, avoiding the technological excesses and hollowness of Hollywood style movies. While there are similarities with the Dogme approach, Five Obstructions is not a 'Dogme' film: but it looks at the idea of rules as a means of stimulating the creative process.

The starting point is a early film short by Trier's old mentor, Jørgen Leth, called The Perfect Human. It is a seemingly anthropological movie where a human being (a man, switching occasionally to a woman) does various basic actions, walking, dressing, eating, undressing, jumps, dances, and a voice over says how we are going to "see the perfect human being in action". There is the occasional introspective line where the character ponders, "Today, too, I had an experience that I hope I shall understand in a few days' time." We see Trier (who considers himself an expert on very few things in life but Leth is one of them) in conversation with Leth. The latter accepts a challenge from Trier to remake the film five times, but each time with a different set of conditions imposed by Trier – who will then judge how successfully Leth has succeeded in the task. The atmosphere is almost like a PhD student and tutor, yet although Trier obviously holds Leth in very high regard, it is Leth who is undergoing the teaching.

Through successive shoots, Trier makes Leth confront that which he most dislikes. He compares the process to when he is directing an actor, forcing a performance from the actor that the actor didn't know was within them. In the first four takes, we see Leth produce something that is artistically worthy with even the most daunting physical and psychological obstructions, but it is in the final obstruction that Trier produces a cathartic effect, turning the tables so thoroughly on Leth and himself that the result is greater than both of them. Instead of a documentary about a film about how a perfect human being works, it becomes a documentary about how a perfect film maker works.

The ending justifies the rather long and mentally tiring prelude. The overall result is a lasting testament on a particular way of reaching the creative process, and also a documentary testament to Trier's own particular genius. There is no artifice, no hype, only two people of great artistic integrity working together to pull something from their subconscious of lasting greatness.


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