• James Rutherford

'The Five Obstructions': A Wildly Enjoyable Experiment in Documentary Filmmaking


Movie poster for the documentary The Five Obstructions starring Jørgen Leth and Lars von Trier

“The Five Obstructions” (2003) is a Danish documentary featuring Lars von Trier and his longtime mentor, Jørgen Leth, as they engage in an ambitious filmmaking challenge at von Trier’s dubious behest.


Building upon Leth’s original 13-minute short film The Perfect Human (1967), von Trier challenges his colleague to recreate his most famous film five separate times, according to a series of prescribed limitations that include remote locations, atypical frame rates, alternate mediums and other “obstructions” to Leth’s storytelling ability.


What ensues is a captivating process of psychological gamesmanship as Leth strains to meet Von Trier’s expectations despite his wildly idiosyncratic restrictions, giving the viewer a wonderfully candid look into Leth’s creative process.


Trier himself is perfectly villainous in his role as Leth’s gleeful tormentor, and the overall experience amounts to a wildly enjoyable experiment in documentary filmmaking. Very much worth seeking out—this one may very well surprise you.

 

View the trailer: