“The Five Obstructions” – Jason DeMoe

The perfect human. What a concept when you really think about it. Does it exist? What would he/she be like? In 1967, director Jorgen Leth made a short called The Perfect Human. It examined the mannerisms and life of “the perfect human.” How does he act? Sleep? Eat? Shave? Filmmaker Lars von Trier credits The Perfect Human as his favorite film. In 2003, Leth agreed to remake his film five different ways, each time conforming to a different set of “obstructions” laid in place by von Trier.

The Five Obstructions is not an attempt to brilliantly remake a classic short. Lars von Trier is such a fan of Leth’s original work that he could never pretend to attempt to improve on it. His plan is to “force” Trier to make a poor version of The Perfect Human. Some of the obstructions drive Leth to the point of near-madness. He seemingly disagrees with much of what he is asked to do but trudges on anyway, simply for the sake of the project.

I liked this documentary-style re-imagining of sorts. I wasn’t in love. I can’t exactly put any fingers on it, but something about this didn’t make me want to care. I didn’t feel vested in wanting this film to progress; I sat through it. I hate to say that about a film, but it’s the truth in this case. Possibly, if I would have viewed the original 1967 short, my experience might have been a different one. Some of the obstructions were a bit interesting, however. I personally loved the cartoon style version; the animation style was great.

One of the things that does give this film some legs are it’s two stars. The interactions between Leth and von Trier were the main reason I kept watching. To see these two intellectually duel over how things should or shouldn’t be done was highly amusing. They annoyed the hell out of each other at times, but there was always that underlying respect and friendship that made it all the more interesting to watch. When the obstructions were being dealt out, I felt as if I was watching “Mission: Impossible.”

Your mission, if you choose to accept, it is to watch this film and decide for yourself. I would suggest watching the original The Perfect Human first, simply so you can get a complete grasp of what is being “remade.”

Rating: ★★☆☆

-Jason DeMoe

Read more of Jason’s reviews at Screen Spotlight.

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