The Five Obstructions

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The Five Obstructions
The Five Obstructions.jpg
Directed by Lars von Trier
Jørgen Leth
Produced by Peter Aalbæk
Vibeke Windeløv
Written by Lars von Trier
Jørgen Leth
Starring Lars von Trier
Jørgen Leth
Claus Nissen
Daniel H. Rodriguez
Patrick Bauchau
Distributed by Zentropa Real ApS, Wajnbrosse Production and Koch-Lorber Films
Release dates
  • 11 September 2003 (2003-09-11) (Toronto Film Festival)
  • 21 November 2003 (2003-11-21) (Denmark)
Running time
88 minutes
Country Denmark
Language Danish, English, French, Spanish

The Five Obstructions (Danish: De fem benspænd) is a Danish film of 2003 by Lars von Trier and Jørgen Leth. The film is a documentary, but incorporates lengthy sections of experimental films produced by the filmmakers. The premise is that Lars von Trier has created a challenge for his friend and mentor, Jørgen Leth, another filmmaker. Trier's favourite film is Leth's The Perfect Human (1967), and Trier gives Leth the task of remaking The Perfect Human five times, each time with a different 'obstruction' (or obstacle) imposed by Trier.[1]

The obstructions[edit]

  1. Leth must remake the film in Cuba, with no set, and with no shot lasting longer than 12 frames, and he must answer the questions posed in the original film; Leth successfully completes this task.
  2. Leth must remake the film in the worst place in the world but not show that place onscreen; additionally, Leth must himself play the role of "the man". The meal must be included, but the woman is not to be included. Leth remakes the film in the red light district of Bombay, only partially hiding it behind a translucent screen.
  3. Because Leth failed to complete task 2 perfectly, Trier punishes him, telling him to either remake the film in any way he chooses, or else to repeat it again with obstruction 2 in Bombay. Leth chooses the first option and remakes the film in Brussels, using split-screen effects.
  4. Leth must remake the film as a cartoon. He does so with the aid of Bob Sabiston, a specialist in rotoscoping, who creates animated versions of shots from the previous films. As such the final product is technically an animation but not a cartoon. Nevertheless, Trier considers the task to be completed successfully.[citation needed]
  5. The fifth obstruction is that Trier has already made the fifth version, but it must be credited as Leth's, and Leth must read a voice-over narration, ostensibly from his own perspective but in fact one written by Trier.

Collaboration with Martin Scorsese[edit]

At the Berlinale 2010, Lars von Trier, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro announced plans to work on a remake of Scorsese's film Taxi Driver. The film will be made with same restrictions as were used in The Five Obstructions.[2]



Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]