Being Obstructive

Apart from his TV show The Kingdom, which delighted me, the only Lars Von Trier joint I have any time for is THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS. It’s a great teaching tool — Von Trier and his collaborator, Jorgen Leth, show how an artist can triumph over all sorts of arbitrary, seemingly impossible handicaps. It’s a very hopeful film, in that sense, which cannot really be said of DANCER IN THE DARK or NYMPHOMANIAC.

Von Trier, knowing Leth quite well, can pick obstacles he knows will truly vex his old friend, and I thought it might be amusing to invent obstructions for other filmmakers, based on their particular ways of working.

For Quentin Tarantino, you might pick almost any of Trier’s Dogme 95 rules, especially —

  1. Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot.
  2. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden.
  3. Genre movies are not acceptable.
  4. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.

Tarantino is practically the only filmmaker in the world who might be forced to raise his game by these rules. Since he already obeys rule 9 by not listing himself as director, a useful fifth rule for him might be

5. Samuel L. Jackson may not appear.

Peter Greenaway should be disbarred from symmetry. In fact, he should be forced to work with asymmetrical actors — Ian Dury’s appearance in THE COOK THE THIEF was a god step in this direction. And he should be prevented from hiring actors who speak in arch, mannered tones, or flat, boring tones. No Michael Nyman. Instead, the Yakkety Sax chase music from The Benny Hill Show should be played every ten minutes, no matter what is happening. Oh, and his tripod should have one leg shorter than the others.

Michael Bay shouldn’t be allowed special effects. Or music. Or sound. Or a camera. And he has to direct it while gagged, blindfolded and wearing a straitjacket, locked in a cupboard in a coal cellar in a country at least five hundred miles away from where the shoot is taking place.

Of course, Lars himself needs to fall victim to his own foul scheme. No suffering women. No miserable ending. Shoot it on film. Shoot it in Danish, for God’s sake, your English dialogue is terrible. In fact, get someone who can write to write it.

Actually, none of Lars’ obstructions are really obstructions. He doesn’t need obstructions, he needs help.

Who would you obstruct, and how?

14 Responses to “Being Obstructive”

  1. I would obstruct Lars from filming anything. I truly can’t stand his stuff.

  2. Feels like it’s been a long time since I got anything out of Lars or he even made a film you could drag me to using wild horses. I find a barge pole handy for driving away such horses.

    Although I’ve been meaning to watch at least the opening of Melancholia. Once the people start talking, i’m gone.

  3. Robert Zemeckis cannot use motion capture or be sentimental.

  4. Or use well-known songs.

  5. I’m tempted to lay down some rules for Terrence Malick but would probably hate myself afterwards.

  6. After seeing NYMPHOMANIAC, someone must give me a stellar reason (and, I think, money) to sit through another Von Trier.

  7. Jonathan Says:

    The result of your LvT restrictions would be something like his 2006 film The Boss of it All. It was shot on film, it’s in the Danish language, there’s no suffering woman (just a hysterical supporting stock character) and the ending, while cruel, is incredibly funny. Like most of his films it’s a work of intense misanthropy and self loathing, but with actual humour, and none of the smug pretensions and shock value of his other films.

  8. He has a computer as DoP on that one, to tick the smug pretension box. But, like the 100 camera trick in Dancer in the Dark, the innocent viewer wouldn’t necessarily know what the gimmick is.

  9. I feel like Wes Anderson would be an obvious one; no use of overhead shots or symmetrical framing, no stylised props (only found materials), no British New Wave, no actors he has previously used, no dysfunctional families and so on. I guess The Fantastic Mr Fox achieved some of this.

    I liked The Five Obstructions a lot, do you know of anything else in the same vein?

  10. Actually, I think The Five Obstructions already obeys the obstructions I would give LVT — must be why I like it. And no, I don’t know of anything similar.

    Yes, force Wes Anderson to put the camera at an oblique angle to the back wall and he’d have to invent a whole new style. Mr Fox does all the same tics, only with animation. Grand Hotel Budapest changes frame size, which is at least a new one for him.

  11. Simon Kane Says:

    I did enjoy Melancholia, although the opening is straight surrealist miserablist pastiche. Unintentionally hilarious. But pretty. The central horror though, that depression is actually correct, that depression is prophetic, I found kind of superb. Five Obstructions annoyed me a little as it went on because Lars kept letting him off.
    Some obstructions I’d like to see – not improvements, not complaints, just restrictions –
    Scorsese’s not allowed DiCaprio. Actually Scorsese’s not allowed any men. Gilliam has to shoot something in a field. No buildings. Oh, someone else suggested Wes Anderson is not allowed any actor he’s used before. Okay, P T Anderson is not allowed any scene that runs for more than 47 seconds. Malick is not allowed exteriors. Orson Welles is not allowed Orson Welles.

  12. No exteriors for Malick, and no windows or translucent curtains.

    Gilliam said he was inspired by all the Cinecitta backdrops on Munchausen to consider doing a film with painted sets, a very cheap film. He should do it! The difficulty is always coming up with an idea that suits the approach, but I bet if somebody said, Here’s two million, he could find some way to spend it.

  13. Simon Kane Says:

    Maybe that’s why he moved into Opera?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: