The Initiative Post

Creative Obstructions

I started this post by looking into the rules of Dogma 95. I knew some of the restrictions like only using light that was actually available, no sets could be built and sound had to be captured as it was shot. I liked the simple restrictions that could help celebrate a production that wasn’t going to have a Hollywood finish to it. As I looked into Dogma 95 and its directors I was interested to learn that the movement was often seen as a publicity stunt but even if it was one of the goals was to help film-makers without the budget see that quality work could still be produced (Chaudhuri 2005).

I thought that I could use the Dogma 95 restrictions and re-shoot a version of our Lenny. However, after doing a handheld version and the fact that there is fake violence in the scene I didn’t really think that it adhered to the rules. Through my research, though I found The Five Obstructions, a documentary where Lars Von Trier challenges his friend and peer Jørgen Leth to remake his short film, The Perfect Human, with five different sets of rules.

The different versions that Leth was able to produce are really quite unique and interesting films and so I tried my hand at one of the limitations. The one the First Obstructions required Leth to use no shot lasting more than 12 frames and it is with this restriction that I attempted to edit some of our Lenny.

While this definitely is definitely an incomplete edit (and possibly just pretentious), I definitely felt like I had a renewed creative freedom while editing with this significant restriction. I felt like I was able to take on the point of view of Lenny’s broken and fractured state of mind. I could justify for myself the use of moments of black that would be as if Lenny had blacked out. As Lenny tries to find her feet she gets stuck going backwards and forwards never certain of her direction or where she is.

I was also able to incorporate moments that were I’m not in the rehearsed action, which helped to support the rapid jumping of the cuts. I’m 100% sure how I would incorporate longer dialogue in a comprehensible way using only 12 frames at a time but I think I would be able to find a way to get the important information in supported by the justification of being in Lenny’s slowly fading consciousness.

Consideration how I might apply this to any future films, I probably wouldn’t use such an extreme form but it does make me think about how straightforward my view of cinematic space and time has been. Are there moments where I can play with this form to make an ordinary moment more engaging. This type of editing makes me think of the car scene from Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, where the conversation and soundtrack have continuity but the location changes frequently and unexpectedly.


Chaudhuri, S 2005, ‘Dogma Brothers: Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg’, in N Romes (ed.), New Punk Cinema, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 153 – 167.

The Five Obstructions 2003, DVD, Zentropa Real ApS, Denmark, directed by Lars Von Trier.

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