Geek Out: Martin Scorsese to Team with Lars von Trier on The Five Obstructions

Geek Out: Martin Scorsese to Team with Lars von Trier on The Five Obstructions

May 13, 2011

In what could be the beginning of another prank from Lars von Trier (see: Dogme 95) comes news that the Melancholia director will be teaming up with Martin Scorsese to revive one of the most unique collaborations in cinema history – The Five Obstructions. Rumors first circulated that von Trier would be remaking Scorsese's classic, Taxi Driver, and that the Danish director challenged Scorsese to remake his own movie in multiple ways – similar to the experimental 2003 documentary. Von Trier's Zentropa initially denied the reports, but news recently broke from Cannes that the union between the two auteurs will indeed be happening.

In The Five Obstructions, von Trier challenged director Jorgen Leth (A Sunday in Hell) to remake his short film, The Perfect Human, in five different ways – tackling multiple "obstructions." The first was to remake the movie in Cuba with no shot lasting more than 12 frames. Second, Leth was to set the film in "the worst place in the world" without actually revealing that place. The young director was unable to complete the second challenge perfectly, so his "punishment" sent him to Brussels using a split-screen effect. Leth next transforms The Perfect Human into a cartoon – which technically ends up being an animation so he fails, again. Finally, Leth must provide voice-over narration for a fifth version already made by von Trier. Watching the challenges unfold – and of course von Trier's playfulness as he reveals the next experiment to Leth – is gleefully torturous. Both men have an intense passion for filmmaking and their collaboration is an incredible insight into the filmic mind, while at the same time poking fun at some of the avant-garde trappings that come with it.

While we don't know if there's any truth to the Taxi Driver rumor, it seems more likely that Scorsese would be tackling one of the early shorts he made while attending New York University's film school. What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This, It's Not Just You, Murray!, and The Big Shave could all be strong candidates for a reboot. No matter which one the duo reconstructs, the idea of this collaboration is wholly exciting. Marty starts shooting the 17th-century Jesuit priest drama Silence with Daniel Day-Lewis in 2012, which means it could be a while before we get to see this one (provided it actually happens and von Trier doesn't burst our bubble, again).

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Juliette Binoche