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The Five Obstructions

// Presented as part of Filmatique's The Creation of Meaning Series //

Spotlight on The Five Obstructions  



Lars von Trier / 2003, Amsterdam, Athens, Bergen, CPH:PIX, Gijón, Göteborg, Hong Kong, Jeonju, Jerusalem, Jihlava, Mar del Plata, Melbourne, Montreal, Moscow, Motovun, Mumbai, Munich International Documentary Film Festival, Philadephia, Reykjavik, Rio de Janeiro, Sarajevo, Sheffield, Sundance, Sydney, Tallinn Black Nights, Toronto, Valdivia, Valladolid, Vancouver, Venice,  / 90'


In 1967 Denmark's most prominent filmmaker Jørgen Leth directed The Perfect Human, a short film portraying a man and woman pacing around a white room as if they were subjects in a zoo. Nearly four decades later the enfant terrible of contemporary cinema Lars von Trier challenges his former mentor to re-make this classic short, but with a catch— each version is constrained by a new obstacle. 


Probing the boundaries of both Leth and von Trier's filmmaking prowess and the ethics of documentary filmmaking itself, The Five Obstructions mobilizes the Dogme-95 movement's noncommercial tenets to uncover the process of creation under increasing duress. The Five Obstructions premiered at Venice, Mar del Plata, CPH:PIX, Göteborg, Sheffield, Tallinn Black Nights and Motovun, where it won the FIPRESCI Prize.


"A cinematic duel of wits for two Danish directors… At stake are two divergent ideas about what art should be: Mr. Leth values control, formal balance and arm's-length irony, while Mr. von Trier is interested in making a mess. For all his perversity, Mr. von Trier may be the one you end up rooting for in this contest, perhaps because, for the first time, he seems like the underdog"

- A.O. Scott, Film Review, The New York Times