Saturday, January 01, 2005

The Five Obstructions (2003)

Why does he love the monkey suit so much? Even his tie's all crooked!

Genre: Experimental Documentary (Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, France)

Starring: Jørgen Leth (Director of The Perfect Human), Lars Von Trier (Director of Manderlay)

Directed By: Jørgen Leth (with instructions courtesy of Lars von Trier)

Overview: Acclaimed director Lars Von Trier films a documentary where he messes with one of his favorite directors, making him do five films with near impossible specifications, hoping to crack his shell and teach him a lesson in humility and imperfection.

Acting: Directors have a way of not being good actors, go figure. As such, they may feel uncomfortable in front of a lens, or not reveal their entire selves and their emotions. I found these people to be perfectly fine in front of a camera, while representing their fears at failure in front of each other. As for the acting in the films that are made as the documentary's challenge, it was great.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: The challenge itself, to make a film with rules in it in order to disrupt the director's creative abilities by forcing cracks of weakness to open up, were challenges in cinematography as much as they were psychological ones. Jørgen may waiver now and then on some issues, but none of them were cinematographic. Unfortunately the actual shooting of the documentary portions were uninspired, though professional and effective.
Rating: 8

Script: Five films are made during the span of this documentary. Those films have poetry and very artistic scripts, almost too much, too pretensious, but that's expected. The way Lars and Jørgen speak to one another is also very artistic, but they're speaking about art, and the true meaning of their goals.
They're both professional artists, and they can defend their motives quite eloquently.
Rating: 7

Plot: This plot is one of the most ingenious I've seen in years. The premise is finally one in which Lars Von Trier can't go beyond the path of reality, skirting it and passing the suspension bridge of disbelief. Lars' characters tend to lean towards the overly dramatic, proving always that humans are shitty and selfish bastards. He tries that here too, and Jørgen fights as hard as he can to stay on course, following his own road to success. Great ending!

Rating: 9

Mood: It was very interesting. Lars tries to infuse his negativity, erosion, decay, imperfection and entropy. His protégé was faced with proving him wrong, attempting to inspire and elevate himself above it all, to be a beacon of hope. In a way, this movie could only fail in going the way it was supposed to, because both players were fighting for the opposite things, being the Yin and Yang of this documentary. What a tremendous juxtaposition. I loved it, but since it was reality, it wasn't something that shook your foundation the way that a character's tale and a haunting score can do.
Rating: 8

Making people produce cartoons is actually quite rude... Lars, you meanie.

Overall Rating: 80% (Nothing Stands In The Way)

Aftertaste: You probably won't like this movie. In fact, one of my friends, after watching 5 minutes of it, asked, "Is this it?" 15 minutes later he was gone, mumbling "I'm gonna go watch Bubba Ho-Tep." You really have to like these sorts of experiments in art to appreciate this. You also really have to like Lars and his sadistic darkness. It's not a documentary that teaches about a new scientific breakthrough, or some controversy overlooked by mainstream media. It's two artists fighting an artistic duel. If you don't like that, you'll absolutely hate this.

The Dogma Project, which Lars helped create, was a series of films all guided by a strict set of rules: no Hollywood violence, no make-up unless the characters actually would wear it in the present situation, no soundtrack, no added / unnatural lighting, etc... The Celebration, one of my Top 5 of all time movies, is a Dogma Project film. The Five Obstructions was very similar to that, an experiment in style, mentorship, harsh limitations. The reasons behind it may be pretentious to you, but it inspired me to go and create. How many films can you say have changed you just a little, have made you do something about what you just saw? If art is your thing, you'll love how this plays with your right brain.