Italian For Beginners

"Very Good"

Italian For Beginners Review


With the warm, evocative, sublimely human, sweetly melancholy romantic comedy "Italian for Beginners," the fascinating Danish-born minimalist moviemaking style called Dogme95 has graduated beyond its signature look of shaky-vérité handheld cameras, "found" settings and natural light.

While the Dogme movement has produced several fascinating films, its strict, nitty-gritty code the filmmakers work under -- no soundstages or stage lighting and no stationary cameras among other rules -- has felt conspicuous in many of the 25-odd films certified by the informal genre governing body, the Dogme Collective.

But in "Italian," writer-director Lone Scherfig has dropped the pretense and just made a movie. Her filmmaking is transparent, so nothing stands between the viewer and the picture's wonderful world of curiously interconnected characters.

Set during a quiet winter in a pocket of Copenhagen, the story interweaves the lives of several lonely 30-somethings who come to know each other through connections made in an Italian class.

Andreas (Anders W. Berthelsen) is the new pastor at the neighborhood church who is standing in for a surly, suspended minister who makes it his business to harass his replacement. Facing his first Christmas alone after the suicide of his schizophrenic wife, Andreas is struggling with his faith when he's encouraged to join the language class and feels something click with a classmate. Her name is Olympia (Anette Stovelbaek) and she's a clumsy counter girl at the bakery who struggles terribly with a lack of faith in herself after a life of caring for her emotionally abusive invalid father.

Andreas lives at a local hotel managed by the romantically flummoxed Jorgen (Peter Gantzler), who is taking the Italian class hoping it will give him the confidence to flirt with Guila (Sara Indrio Jensen), a beautiful young Italian immigrant who cooks and waits tables at the hotel's sports cafe. Unbeknownst to Jorgen, the feeling is mutual -- so much so that Guila tries to make herself look older, hoping their age difference isn't what's keeping him from making a move.

Guila works with Halvfinn (Lars Kaalund), a bellicose soccer hooligan, bitter about the cards that he's been dealt in life, who often takes it out on cafe customers. Halvfinn begins to see himself the way others do after meeting Karen (Anne Eleonora Jorgensen), the pretty, pushing-40 proprietor of a modest barber shop down the street. As a step toward reforming his personality, and because he already speaks fluent Italian, he takes over the class when its original instructor dies -- and just as Karen joins the class because of an unrelated twist of fate involving her dying mother.

Coping with death and unlucky circumstance are recurring themes in "Italian For Beginners," which mixes this pensive sobriety with such charming romanticism (and lucky circumstance as well) that the concoction is at once deeply affecting, cogently vicarious and delightfully entertaining. Each and every character feels so real -- like dear friends in dire need of some good advice -- that as intimate connections are forged and emotional obstacles overcome, a heartfelt gladness transcends the screen.

A few nagging imperfections lurk in the corners of "Italian for Beginners," like the fact that we never see the nervous new pastor give a sermon and the fact that Guila's attraction to Jorgen -- a 40-ish hotel manager who has a problem with his sex drive -- is never adequately explained. Surely this beautiful, outgoing girl must have men knocking down her door. Yet no one but Jorgen -- not even cafe customers -- shows any interest in her.

But such shortcomings never interfere with the affection Scherfig builds for her enduring and endearing, remarkably well-drawn characters. This movie is a true gem.



Italian For Beginners

Facts and Figures

Run time: 112 mins

In Theaters: Friday 8th December 2000

Box Office USA: $4.4M

Distributed by: Miramax Films

Production compaines: Det Danske Filminstitut, Danmarks Radio (DR)

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 74 Rotten: 10

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Jørgen Mortensen, as Giulia, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen as Karen, Anders W. Berthelsen as Andreas, Anette Støvelbæk as Olympia, as Hal-Finn, as Real Estate Dealer, Rikke Wölck as Nurse, as Reverend Wredmann, as Woman in Church, Lene Tiemroth as Karen's Mother, Claus Gerving as Klaus Graversen, as Olympia's Father, Carlo Barsotti as Marcello, Alex Nyborg Madsen as Church Singer#1 / Sportsman#1, Steen Svare as Church Singer#2 / Sportsman#2, Susanne Oldenburg as Lady, Martin Brygmann as Evening School Teacher

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.