As Leth overcomes each obstacle set before him, the film becomes a work of extraordinary artistry, intellectual exhilaration, emotional uplift, and outright affection.
Stream The Five Obstructions
What are people saying?
What are critics saying?
Watching The Five Obstructions is at once like witnessing two chess masters playing dominoes and like spying on a series of therapy sessions. Mr. von Trier clearly sees himself as a maniacal psychoanalyst.
This movie equivalent of Robert Rauschenberg's artwork "Erased de Kooning" is funny, ornery, and ultimately inspiring.
Though billed as a documentary, The Five Obstructions doesn't easily fall into any category. Perhaps it's best described as a game, in which a pair of Danish film directors from different generations spar with one another in a highly civilized, and surprisingly entertaining, fashion.
An unclassifiable film-school exercise--one part documentary, one part psychodrama, and one part mock manifesto--The Five Obstructions mainly serves to illuminate the game-like nature of Lars von Trier's aesthetic project.
Even those who dismiss Von Trier as a talented sadist might reconsider after seeing this revealing and ultimately poignant documentary -- and the funny thing is, on the surface it's not even about him.
The film is also valuable for raising awareness about Leth, whose work hasn't been as widely recognized as that of his European contemporaries, but who now makes an impressive case for his skills, five times over.
Keep "Survivor" and "Fear Factor," and give me this spellbinding mind teaser, the ultimate game for movie buffs.
The next time you hear a director complain about the studio or his stars or the weather or whatever, think of what Jorgen Leth achieved with Lars von Trier as his boss -- when five obstructions became five splendid opportunities.