In 1967, Jørgen Leth made The Perfect Human
, a short anthropological comedy about a man in a room, which became a favourite of the young Lars von Trier. Years later, the latter came to Leth with an offer he couldn't refuse: he would produce five remakes of Perfect Human
, each to be directed by Leth according to von Trier's diktat. In the first, Leth is sent to Cuba, and instructed that no edit may last longer than 12 seconds. In the second, he is told to play the lead himself and to shoot in the most miserable place on earth - but to keep it offscreen. A postmodern DVD of a movie - it incorporates extracts from six versions of the same short film, each with its own 'making of' documentary - The Five Obstacles
is a witty deconstruction process. The remakes appear to be of variable quality, but the heart and soul of the film comes in-between, as the two men meet, review the previous effort, and the producer lays down the rules for the next venture. Von Trier's ruthless instinct for his collaborator's soft spots may be sadistic, but it's vastly entertaining. When he really wants to punish Leth, he gives him complete freedom.