Movies: Five Difficult Pieces

Lars von Trier puts a fellow director to a torture test. And--surprise--a terrific film ensues

Lars Von Trier, the Danish auteur OF Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark and Dogville, positively revels in his reputation as a demonic director, a sadist-artist. He's known to torture actors--and often audiences--with his bizarre methods of moviemaking. With The Five Obstructions, he exercises his movie malevolence on a fellow filmmaker (and Dane), the veteran Jorgen Leth.

Von Trier professes to idolize Leth's 1967 short The Perfect Human, an elegant, mock-anthropological treatise on man's imperfectability. But to Von Trier, a hero is still a potential patsy. He dares Leth to remake The Perfect Human five different times, each under...

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