Carsten Holst

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The Five Obstructions Review


Excellent
Anyone who makes art knows that creativity is born from limitations. The Five Obstructions idealizes this notion. Danish provocateur Lars von Trier makes a challenge to his old film professor (and renowned experimental filmmaker) Jørgen Leth: Remake his poetic 1967 short film The Perfect Human five times, according to arbitrary (and sometimes, in Leth's words, "satanic" or "diabolical") rules concocted by von Trier. The Five Obstructions is a documentary about Leth making those five remakes, filtered through von Trier's rules.

Ever since Breaking the Waves, von Trier has been imposing his own self-made limitations on his movies with varying levels of success. Indeed, he comes off in The Five Obstructions as the bad guy, a carefully cultivated image that's more annoying because it's so calculated. Von Trier's sadistic glee is the least interesting part of Obstructions, and Leth is the more compelling subject: an artist grappling with the art of making movies. When faced with the first obstruction-- where no clip must last more than 12 frames, the movie must be shot in Cuba, the questions posed by Leth's experimental short must be answered, and so on -- Leth creates a vivid, collage-poem where the 12 frame structure creates beautiful, dreamlike swirls of movement and daring editing jumps. When faced with Leth's stunning and beautiful completed work, von Trier seethes in mock exasperation: "The 12 frames were a gift!"

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