Italian For Beginners

on January 18, 2002 by Ed Scheid
"Italian for Beginners" is the latest and most entertaining of the Danish Dogma films. The Dogma "rules" of a hand-held camera, natural light and location shooting give an intimacy that helps to emphasize the emotional changes of some thirtysomethings in Scandinavia.

   Andreas (Anders W. Berthelsen, "Mifune") is a minister whose wife has recently died. He arrives in Copenhagen to replace a suspended pastor. As he preaches to an almost empty congregation, Andreas seems like a character from Ingmar Bergman's imagination, but the film soon takes a different turn after Andreas signs up for an Italian class and he gets to know the other students: Jorgen (Peter Gantzler), the shy manager of the hotel where Andreas is staying, has a crush on Italian cook Guila (Sara Indrio Jensen). Hal-Finn (Lars Kaalund) is a restaurant manager whose antagonism toward his customers puts his job in jeopardy. Hal-Fin is attracted to Karen (Ann Eleonora Jorgensen), a hairdresser whom he meets when he tries to get a haircut. Olympia (Anette Stovelbaek), who is clumsily working in a bakery, has a demanding father.

   As the students meet in the Italian class, lives change as new relationships develop. For them, it's a romance language in more ways than one; it's as if the warm Mediterranean sun was melting the chilly Scandinavian winter. A misscheduled funeral further connects some of the characters.

   The script, the first from director Lone Scherfig, is extremely successful in delineating the very different personalities. The actors, whom Scherfig cast against type, give distinctive performances. Scherfig, who is the first female Dogma director, deftly adds a lighter, comedic tone to the genre as the language students gradually help each other to enrich their lives. It's a charming and often affecting journey. Starring Anders W. Berthelsen, Ann Eleonora Jorgensen, Anette Stovelbaek, Peter Gantzler and Lars Kaalund. Directed and written by Lone Scherfig. Produced by Ib Tardini. A Miramax release. Comedy. Danish-language; subtitled. Rated R for language and some sexuality. Running time: 108 min

Tags: Starring Anders W. Berthelsen, Ann Eleonora Jorgensen, Anette Stovelbaek, Peter Gantzler, Lars Kaalund. Directed, written by Lone Scherfig, Produced by Ib Tardini, Miramax, Comedy

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