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February 3, 2004

{     The Five Obstructions     }    

5ob.jpg Lars Von Trier is a name commonly thrown about by smarty-pant collegiate barrier breakers as well as the psuedo-pixie fans of Von Trier's Bjork bummer, "Dancer in the Dark." Yet, Von Trier is one of the most exciting and talented people in modern film. The Danish Czar of the now-disbanded Dogmesecretariat who's "inaccessible" works have been increasingly flirting with mainstream success, "The Five Obstructions" will be overlooked by Von Trier's other release this year, the also excellent Nicole Kidman-helmed "Dogville". Von Trier's work, ranging from post-apocalyptic expressionist cop thrillers and 5-hour made-for-tv hospital dramas to musical sequences utilizing 100 different cameras and tales of parapalegic sexual frustration, will never be considered mundane. "The Five Obstructions", which Von Trier calls his first "dogumentary", delivers on its promise of a unique viewing experience. In 1967, influential Danish director Jorgen Leth released his elegant short "the Perfect Human", a surprisingly humorous piece in the face of the long tradition of depressing Scandinavian masterworks. Now, 36 years later, Lars von Trier challenges his now 66-year-old idol Leth to recreate his famous short five seperate times under five different and increasingly-difficult sets of rules. "The Five Obstructions" plays out like the cinematic equivalent of spy-versus-spy. To give you a feel for the things Trier has in store, Leth's first recreation must a) be shot entirely in Cuba, b) not utilize any type of set, and c) have no edit being longer than 12 frames (half a second). What one initially would initially consider impossible becomes a magnificent achievement for Leth. So the duel begins, the increasingly devious Von Trier goes so far as "punishing" Leth for bending the rules, as the elder filmmaker turns the restrictions into advantageous tools. The pissing match the two engage in is engrossing, even if you're not a Francois Foreign Film type. By the time the final installment is completed, I was surprisingly moved. Granted, I cried at the end of "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" (John Candy all alone on that bench in the bus station on Thanksgiving... like dead puppies to me). Regardless, don't let any pretensious conversations involving "The Five Obstructions" you may overhear at parties between people who probably haven't seen the film prevent you from seeking it out. While being able to find it may prove to be an obstruction for the potential viewer, this is a quality film (though your grandma will still think its weird).

     » Danish Film Institute's "The Five Obstructions" Page
     » Von Trier Fan Site
     » Dogme95 site


after seeing "dancer..." i'm totally interested in this guy's other works having previously been underexposed to him and his gang...i loved that movie but it was so disturbing i have no intentions of ever viewing it again...

but after reading this article, i think i'd really be interested in some of the other projects in the works... thanks for the recommendation... much appreciated as always!!!

Posted by: stace at February 12, 2004 10:45 PM

Thanks for the comments.
I feel exactly the same way about "Dancer". Brilliant as it is, I'm definitely not looking forward to watching it again. So intense and engrossing, its like owning a tragic personal crisis that one can play over and over again with the benefits of surround sound and digital clarity.
Trier is a renowned filmmaker held in high regard all over the world... yet devastatingly unappreciated in the United States. A true artist with his medium, Trier really hasn't made a bad film. Each are all quite different in both style and substance. Not only does he tell a story with his plotlines, he also fully incorporates his daring stylistic considerations to convey his thoughts. I must recommend Breaking the Waves... although little slow at first, it is absolutely stunning.

Posted by: Eric Swisher at February 13, 2004 1:59 PM
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