Last night I watched a film called "The Five Obstructions". It was a documentary-film wherein the Danish director, Jorgen Leth, was suffering quite badly from a case of depression and artist's block, and so called upon his good friend and fellow director Lars Von Trier to help him.
What Lars did was cruel, unusual and hilarious - he told Jorgen to remake his 1967 short film, The Perfect Human. It was a film shot in front of a white screen while a narrator posed several rhetorical questions while observing a man and a woman. But now Jorgen had to remake it with a list of severe obstructions to the creative process. Lars' aim was to teach Jorgen to make a piece of shit.
No edit was to be longer than twelve frames.
It had to be shot somewhere he had never been before (Cuba).
Every rhetorical question asked by the narrator now had to be answered.
There was to be no white screen or built set of any description.
Amazingly, Jorgen went away - initially extremely discouraged - and came back with an excellent film that, in my opinion, superseded the original. Lars was somewhat disappointed because he wanted to see Jorgen fail. So he gave him a new list of in(ob)structions, this time much harsher and more difficult.
Again, Jorgen returned with a brilliant film. For bending the rules to his will, however, Lars was very annoyed with Jorgen and for his third task punished him with an even more ludicrous list, and so it went on.
Every time, Jorgen came back with a great film that exceeded all expectations.
Eventually, Lars Von Trier admitted defeat, realising that a true perfectionist cannot and will not make a piece of shit.
This led me to an idea: why not make this a game that everyone can play??How to play
These are my own rules, not quite what happened in the movie, but based directly off of it. I encourage anyone reading this to pair up with a fellow artist (preferably a fellow perfectionist
, but anything goes). You can follow these rules or amend them how you see fit, this is just my serving suggestion. Keep in mind that "artist" in this context can mean anything from painter, animator, or filmmaker to writer or musician. Anything creative with room for perfectionism.
The rules are quite simple.
There must be two (2) players. This will incite an atmosphere of rivalry, revenge and mental torture in a completely beneficial context.
Player One sets Player Two a creative task with a list of serious obstructions to the creative process. Hunt for their weak spots, touch their open nerves, get right under their skin.
Player Two has to take this challenge and surprise Player One by creating a finished product that exceeds all expectations. Limitations must be met as a challenge to be overcome, not an excuse for resultant mediocrity.
Regardless of whether Player Two succeeds with their piece, it is now their turn to wreak revenge on Player One by setting them their own creative task with their own list of obstructions.
Player One comes back with a finished piece of art and retaliates with a new and far more difficult challenge for Player Two. So it continues.
The game is over when you wish it to be over. The point of this exercise is to continue setting highly uncomfortable creative challenges for each other and continually overcome them with a great finished result. This is not necessarily a competition so much as an exercise for one's artistic health. But if you want to know when to call it quits, here is the best thing I can think of. If one player forfeits during any round, they automatically lose. If both players agree after an even number of rounds (for instance, Player One and Player Two have both completed two or four or ten challenges), then both players win. The aim is not to win so much as to avoid losing.
Any thoughts? Suggestions? If you feel like playing, be sure to let me know how it went!
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