Review: Italian for Beginners – Italiensk for begyndere (2000)


Director: Lone Scherfig | 107 minutes | drama, comedy | Actors: Anders W. Berthelsen, Anette Støvelbæk, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen, Peter Gantzler, Lars Kaalund, Sara Indrio Jensen, Karen-Lise Mynster, Rikke Wölck, Elsebeth Steentoft, Bent Mejding, Lene Tiemroth, Claus Gerving, Jesper Christlund, Merete Voldsted Henning Jensen, Carlo Barsotti, Alex Nyborg Madsen, Steen Svare, Susanne Oldenburg, Martin Brygmann, Alexander Noval, Matteo Valese, Armando Battiston, Silvio Zanon, Radu Zaplini

“Italian for Beginners” as a movie is like a Dogma 95 movie for beginners. Have you never seen a film made according to the Dogma 95 principle and does this method scare you off? Then “Italian for Beginners” is the ideal film to start with. Although all the rules of the Dogma manifesto are met, the film is stripped of cynicism and a biting tone, as in “Festen” and “The Idiots” and “Italian for Beginners” is really only sweet and touching. A super romantic comedy that will make you feel warm!

Lone Scherfig, who went down in history as the first woman to make a Dogma movie, has chosen well by giving each of her characters an equal part of the story. Thus, the focus is nowhere on just one of the burgeoning love stories. A film like “The Holiday”, for example, had a considerable lack of sympathy due to the ample screentime that Cameron Diaz shared with Jude Law, compared to that of the couple Kate Winslet / Jack Black, which meant that the film lost its sympathy. Although many more characters are central in “Italian for Beginners”, it still manages to form a kind of bond with each of the characters. They are portrayed lifelike and extremely credible, so that the feeling that you creep up afterwards that you have been able to look into the lives of really existing people for a long time continues to simmer.

It’s entirely plausible that the attractive Italian waitress Giulia will fall for the elderly Jørgen Mortensen, a hotel receptionist. His problem, he suffers from impotence, is beautifully portrayed in the film. Another blossoming relationship is that of the hairdresser Karen and the manager of a football club canteen, Hal-Finn. Never before has a visit to the hairdresser been portrayed so erotic and sensual. It’s wonderful how the two twirl around each other (so they meet about three times in the hair salon without Hal-Finn getting his much-needed haircut). The scenes in his restaurant are masterful: it’s really hilarious how Hal-Finn rages against his customers.

In addition to love, the relationship between parent and child receives a lot of attention. Karen’s mother ends up in hospital and naive, clumsy Olympia also struggles with her demanding, overbearing father. Death is also a recurring theme in the film, although it is not used heavily and serves purely for the continuation of the story. Following the Italian lesson has a slightly different reason for each of the characters: the hotel receptionist is motivated to master the language in order to speak to his beloved Giulia, the other sees it as a way out of the boring monotonous existence.

Together with the excellent cast, Scherfig has managed to translate a seemingly simple story into a wonderful feel-good film with a number of deeper layers, which makes all clichéd romcoms pale. The well-applied Dogma principles only work to her advantage. Can not be missed!

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