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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "De Fem Benspænd" )

 

directed by Jørgen Leth and Lars von Trier
Denmark 2003

 

Somewhat of a private in-joke between von Trier and Leth, “The Five Obstructions” is a metafilm about especially the creative process, but also sort of a hypertextual alchemic lab experiment, where von Trier is attempting to recreate “gold”.

The basis for this is Leth’s experimental film “The Perfect Human” from 1967, a film much admired by, and a personal source of inspiration for, von Trier. As such, von Triers approach to the film is that it is perfect and his question is, can one recreate something perfect or improve it?

To answer this, Leth must remake the film five times, each time with a set of obstructions which in turn become creative drives. The very first is that no scene may be longer than 12 frames (0.5 second). Leth is to begin with horrified, but then realises that, as he says, “…it’s just a paper tiger.”

The answer turns out to be, that art cannot be duplicated, only imitated. The “classic text” of “The Perfect Human” is perfect because of the balance of each artistic element, while the new texts are each by themselves perfect, because their balance, and unique because of each obstruction adds more weight to one specific element; For instance the ellipsis of the 12 frame cuts adds a new quality to the already elliptic structure and the Bombay location adds new perspective to the notion of “perfection”.

One cannot make such an approach without a certain degree of arrogance and von Trier is very aware of it. As Leth points out in his final comments, von Trier castigated him as he wanted to be castigated himself. Of course von Trier wrote this text to be read by Leth, but it nevertheless is the truth:

“I am a poor human being, who, like all humans, attempt to fool the world, and myself, because I don’t want to acknowledge it. My trick is cheap… If I only show what I see, without attaching any emotions, just like the war prisoner who only gives out rank and number, won’t the world then buy it? I call it art, but I am actually completely certain of, that I am capable of nothing…Was it good Lars? You probably have thought about, that those who puts words into other peoples mouths do it in order not to say them themselves.”

There are more questions hidden within this film. Does someone who has studied a film intimately know the art better than the artist? Does that someone know the artist better than himself? Does one seek perfection in order to avoid it? Does on demand perfection in order to hide ones lack thereof?

What is left to say is, that “The Five Obstructions” is a rare masterpiece, an auteurist in-joke, which passes us on the screen as a comment we hear while driving by two people talking and thus becomes the rhetorical answer to “what the perfect human thinks”, which is, as said by the perfect human himself in the film: “Again today I experienced something I hope to understand in a day or two”, thereby defining art. One of this years best films.

Henrik Sylow

Posters

Theatrical Release: September 11, 2003 (Toronto International Film Festival)

Reviews                                                More Reviews                                        DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

Nordisk Film - Region 0 - PAL vs. Koch Lorber - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Kino Lorber (Special Remastered Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Henrik Sylow and Ole Kofoed and Eric Cotenas for the Screen Caps!

(Nordisk Film - Region 0 - PAL - LEFT vs. Koch Lorber - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Kino Lorber (Special Remastered Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC - RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution

Nordisk Film

Region 0 - PAL

Koch Lorber
Region 0 - NTSC
Kino Lorber
Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 1:27:19 (4% PAL speedup) 1:27:18 (4% PAL speedup) 1:27:24 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.85 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 4.35 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 4.35 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

 

Nordisk Film

 

Bitrate:

 

Koch Lorber

 

Bitrate:

 

Kino Lorber (Special Remastered Edition)

 

Audio Danish/English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo

Danish/English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo

Danish/English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround

Subtitles Danish, none English, none English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Nordisk Film

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Leth's 1967 short film 'Det Perfekte Menneske' (12:44)
• Alternative Ending (9:24)
• Deleted Scenes (4:08)
• Obstruction Poetry
• Trailers

DVD Release Date: 5 May 2004
Amaray

Chapters 6
 

Release Information:
Studio: Koch Lorber

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by Jørgen Leth (in English)
• Leth's 1967 short film 'The Perfect Human' (4:3; 13:00)
• Danish Trailer (16:9; 2:57)
• English Trailer (16:9; 1:29)
• Trailers:
• - 'La Dolce Vita'
• - 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg'
• - 'Jesus of Montreal'
• - 'The Decline of the American Empire'
• - 'In July'
• - 'Pigalle'
• - 'Sister My Sister'
• DVD Credits

 

DVD Release Date: 5 October 2004
Amaray

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio: Kino Lorber

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by Jørgen Leth (in English)
• Leth's 1967 short film 'The Perfect Human' (4:3; 12:59)
• English Trailer (16:9; 1:29)
• About Kino Lorber

 

DVD Release Date: April 22nd, 2014
Amaray

Chapters 16

 

Comments

ERIC ON THE KINO LORBER EDITION: Despite the "Special Remastered Edition" label on the new Kino Lorber edition, their single-layer appears to be the same PAL-converted transfer (the reason being perhaps because of the mixture of film and video shooting, although some US companies have found progressive workarounds) - the bitrates are the same - or at least the same master as the Koch Lorber edition. The disc is identical in other respects to the earlier Koch Lorber but for the removal of the original Danish trailer and trailers for other titles (most of which they no longer own).

OLE ON THE KOCH LORBER EDITION: The R1 version of ”The Perfect Human” has English narrator, Claus Nissen speaks Danish with English subtitles and there is a considerable amount of background noise. On the R2 version, the narrator speaks Danish and there is no background noise.

The audio commentary by Leth is scarce and has long pauses, and as the commentary track doesn’t has subdued sound, it is hard to the point of becoming irritable to concentrate on listening to what Leth comments while Leth talks in the film.

The R1 NTSC edition has the same length as the R2 PAL, which suggest that it is a direct PAL to NTSC transfer, which would explain the overlapping images (Image #5).

As the film mostly is in spoken Danish, this edition is the only way, for now, for those unable to understand it, to see the film.

HENRIK ON THE NORDISK EDITION: Apart from the sad fact, that Nordisk Film really blew it by not adding English subtitles to this edition, the R2 DVD is superior in all aspects. Better picture, better sound on the original short and better additional material.

It does lack the brief commentaries by Leth, but to compensate, it has an alternative ending and original poetry by Leth.

The alternative ending is a recording of Leth and von Trier watching the ending which we see and then discussing it. Here the in-joke really stands our, as von Trier directly says, "Dammit, this really is a piece of shit", to which Leth says, "I wouldn't call it a success, but neither would I call it shit." Trier's objection is, that the duration of the film matters little, as no thought ever is thought out. These 3 minutes of discussion is probably the only time ever von Trier is honest and open about his art.

Another gem are the five original pieces of poetry Leth was asked to write after each meeting with von Trier, and in which Leth attempts to capture the essence of the meeting, and by that the value of the obstruction.

 -

 



DVD Menus
(Nordisk Film - Region 0 - PAL - LEFT vs. Koch Lorber - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Kino Lorber (Special Remastered Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC - RIGHT)
 

 


 

Screen Captures

(Nordisk Film - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Koch Lorber - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Kino Lorber (Special Remastered Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


(Nordisk Film - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Koch Lorber - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Kino Lorber (Special Remastered Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


(Nordisk Film - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Koch Lorber - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Kino Lorber (Special Remastered Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


(Nordisk Film - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Koch Lorber - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Kino Lorber (Special Remastered Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


(Nordisk Film - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Koch Lorber - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Kino Lorber (Special Remastered Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


(Nordisk Film - Region 0 - PAL - TOP vs. Koch Lorber - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Kino Lorber (Special Remastered Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC - BOTTOM)

 

 


 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Nordisk Film

Sound:

Draw

Extras: Draw (Koch Lorber / Kino Lorber for commentary)
Menu: Draw

 
DVD Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution

Nordisk Film

Region 0 - PAL

Koch Lorber
Region 0 - NTSC
Kino Lorber
Region 0 - NTSC

 

 


 




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