The Five Obstructions

Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


Jørgen Leth is the elder statesman of Danish documentary, a part-time Haitian, a raconteur deluxe, and a bike-racing enthusiast who serves as the voice of Danish television during the Tour de France. He is also the idol of Lars von Trier, the enfant terrible of Danish filmmaking, Dogme '95's founding father, and an international celebrity who famously refuses to fly.

Von Trier finds Leth's 1967-era The Perfect Human—a 12-minute exercise in irony and avant-gardist absurdity—the perfect film. So von Trier has Leth remake it—five times—while creating a series of obstacles designed to baffle the elder Dane. But Leth isn't baffled—not when he has to reconstruct his movie in shots of only 12 frames each; not when he has to remake it in the red-light district of Bombay; and not when he has to rethink it as an animated film. Von Trier's foray into documentary making certainly seems a perverse concept: force a filmmaker with 30 films behind him to reimagine thoroughly and repeatedly a film he made 30-odd years before. And yet, as Leth overcomes each obstacle set before him, the film becomes a work of extraordinary artistry, intellectual exhilaration, emotional uplift, and outright affection.

— Diane Weyermann

Screening Details

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