Leth himself is credited as director of this film, yet the point-of-view keeps shifting from his own to that of Von Trier - whose brainchild the movie is.
The Perfect Human is a thirteen minute short film that analyses the human condition, and using juxtaposing shots and voice-over, scans every aspect of human physicality and investigates our emotions. It tries to objectify the human being and create distance between ourselves and who really are, so we can see it for ourselves.
The concept of this documentary is brilliant. Von Trier sets a new set of obstructions for each of the five remakes of the 1967 film. We see the two filmmakers discussing the obstructions and a dramatic play between the two develops in the way the older man, Leth, lets himself be controlled by his former student.
The first obstruction proves to only be technically challenging. Amongst other restrictions, the first remake had to be shot in Cuba and no shot could be longer than 12 frames. The result is brilliant. The film is actually enhanced by the 12 frame restriction and in fact Von Trier bemoans the fact that his former mentor is only inspired by the restrictions. So for the second obstruction, he sets an emotional challenge for Leth.
He is forced to recreate the extravagant meal segment of the original film in "one of the most miserable places on earth". And, to top that, Leth had to be the actor as well.
In almost surreal fashion, one accompanies Leth into the red light district of Bombay, where amongst the poverty, famine and the darkest corner of the human soul, Leth had to be dressed in a tuxedo, sip the finest wine and bemoan the frivolity of joy whilst tucking into poached salmon.
This impresses Von Trier - but not enough. He points out to Leth that he overlooked one basic rule of the second obstruction - in that he wasn't allowed to show any of the people around him. So, to punish Leth, he plays a move which he believes is a master stroke - in that he gives Leth full freedom for the third remake. This he does and again passes the test with flying colours.
Leth recreates the movie in Brussels, and using efficient split-screen editing again stuns Von Trier (and the audience).
For the fourth obstruction, Von Trier demands that the film be remade as a cartoon. This puts Leth in a spin (both filmmakers have expressed their dislike of the animation genre) but again he rises to the challenge. He collaborates with an animator and using footage from the previous remakes and the original film, he converts the film into paint technique - a style reminiscent of Richard Linklater's Waking Life.
Again Leth succeeds with an animation that even he is proud off.
Then, finally, the film reaches the fifth obstruction and Von Trier's grand scheme becomes more apparent. The fifth obstruction is that he himself will direct the film and provide Leth with a script for which he must provide a voice-over. And furthermore, Leth must be credited as the director.
Once the fifth film is assembled and played, we see some of their conversations about the obstructions are used as the film narrative, while the voice is a moving letter from Leth to Von Trier.
The younger man reveals that he has attempted to chastise his mentor for being too much of a spectator - but in the process he discovered that they are both just humans that are striving to be perfect in the moment.
The film is a brilliant exploration of humanity, creativity and inspiration. Von Trier is clearly struck by the idea that only restriction can inspire the human mind. He was one of the original Dogme95 filmmakers who pledged to always be guided by nine different obstructions when making their films - possibly a reaction to the synthetic effect glut of Hollywood.
And so his theories on obstruction here makes for a documentary that will challenge the way the viewer thinks about their own creativity and their point of view.
If anything, the remakes in themselves are incredibly interesting film studies. That a director can remake his own film four times, with such incredible shift in execution, yet retaining the feel and intent of the original is quite remarkable.