Italian for Beginners

"Excellent"

Italian for Beginners Review


Danish writer-director Lone Scherfig's durable and spunky romantic comedy Italian for Beginners is an intoxicatingly spry and entertaining romantic comedy produced under the auspices of Lars Von Trier's Dogme 95 guidelines. (Scherfig holds the distinction of being the first female filmmaker to helm a film under the Dogme 95 manifesto.)

The film takes place in a squalid Copenhagen suburb where emotions and anxiety seemingly run amok. While the actual narrative is simplistic, it profiles six desperately needy and complicated individuals looking to fulfill themselves. When a recently widowed (and young) pastor named Andreas (Anders W. Berthelsen) arrives on the scene to take over the duties for a wayward congregation, he finds himself catering to the interests of a half dozen disillusioned individuals trying to make sense out of their empty lives.

Just as life shoots uncontrollable twists and turns at these folks, the characters also turn their attention into mastering the Italian tongue. The focus is meant to ease their frustrations over life and love, to the point where the "beginners" literally beg for a whole new beginning. Conquering the foreign language is a metaphor for the mending of a broken heart or the escape from the vicious circle of daily life. And yet the universe ends up completely in balance.

The highlight of the story is simply watching the six intertwining lives. Hal-Finn (Lars Kaalund) is the obnoxiously funny sports bar manager ordered to get a haircut by the big brass of his business. It's on this trip to get his hair trimmed that he meets and falls for the local hairdresser named Karen (Ann Eleonora Jørgensen). Karen, in turn, is the sibling of a clumsy-minded bakery employee named Olympia (Anette Støvelbæk). Olympia, it turns out, has an immense crush on her pastor Andreas, who tries to console her about her apparent awkwardness. Meanwhile, pesky hotel manager Jorgen (Peter Gantzler) has a selfish reason for needing to learn the Italian verbiage: He's smitten with an Italian waitress named Giulia (Sara Indrio Jensen) and wants to score points by impressing her with his new tongue.

Scherfig's light-hearted profile of emotional desperation is achingly honest and delightfully cheeky. She also manages to follow the Dogme restrictions (handheld camera only, utilization of natural light and sound, absence of a soundtrack, etc.) and gets them to work in her favor. The performances are solid, and Sherfig elevates a simple romantic comedy beyond Hollywood cliché. Consequently, Sherfig's project is tautly realized, swinging wildly between tragic and comic. Just like life.

In Danish and Italian with English subtitles. Aka Italiensk for begyndere.

First in Latin, then Italian.



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: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 74 Rotten: 10

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

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

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