Italian for Beginners (Denmark; 112min.)

directed by: Lone Scherfig
starring: Anders W. Berthelsen; Anette Stevelbaek; Peter Gantzier; Ann Eleonora Jorgensen; Lars Kaalund
Italiensk for begyndere
Esmé says: "Loved this film, but I was wondering about something... Why was it shot in video like 'Cops' or some other 'reality' tv show? I guess it is a pet peeve of mine--film is so beautiful and rich and video is I did really like the characters, however, especially the sisters. The movie created this tiny world--it seemed like it took place on a submarine or a ship--that can be so claustrophobic and incestuous and emotionally intense. It reminded me of when I first went away to school and we were isolated outside of town and there were 400 of us--it can get crazy, especially in the winter! I have to admit, the shooting in video intensified this feeling for me...hmmmmm, maybe I gave myself the argument I needed."
Hilary says: "I saw ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS this weekend and was thoroughly pleased.

"I agree that at base it's a romantic comedy, based on fairly shallow material (Maeve Binchy novel/story), but it is transformed into something more substantial through the dogme digital video style and inclusion of darker realities of life. These elements made me not mind the typical Romance ending of everyone beoming couples. (Was glad of the inclusion of a sibling "pair" as well.)

"I found Jorgen & Guilia to be particularly endearing, but thought the entire cast worked together well. Also, LOVED seeing the Danish clerical outfits -- they belonged in a painting, not a contemporary film!

"By the way, does Halv(F)inn remind anyone else of Donal Logue?"
Jim says: "While I find most of the Dogma 95 precepts to be overly pretentious, I was actually able to get beyond that and enjoy this sly comedy. The preparation for a trip to Italy which requires some knowledge of the language brings together a disparate group of charcters in a night-school class. Each faces difficulties that belie the comic results."
Laura says: "Scherfig throws one surprising relationship of the non-romantic kind our way while gradually removing the obstacles that will allow three couples to form during a climatic trip to Venice. She mixes stark realities (euthanasia) with humor (a series of cross-scheduled funerals) that results in a humanistic comedy resembling CELEBRATION crossed with BREAD AND TULIPS." 3 1/2 cats
For Laura's complete review: ""
Michael says: "In what is surely the surprise darling of the Toronto Film festival, Scherfig's ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS proves that the dogme 95 manifesto can be used to stunning effect in a deadpan, romantic comedy. Laughter and tears, sometimes simultaneously, are the hallmarks of Scherfig's third film. Taking a gifted ensemble cast, casting them against type and using her own moving yet hysterically funny screenplay, Scherfig charms, probes, questions, and ultimately leaves the viewer cheering. A shoe-in for Best Ensemble Cast, and worthy of other nominations as well. Don't miss ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS." 5 cats

And in response to Esme: "For Esme and any others unfamiliar with the Dogme 95 manifesto, check out this page on the official Dogme website: There you'll find all the rules the directors are supposed to adhere to when making a film. ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS was interesting as a dogme film because it was the first dogme film shot by a woman director. I personally also think it is one of the more successful of the dogme films. By taking such a sweet, romantic comedy and filming it under the dogme tenents, I think there is a much more realistic feel to the story.

"And Greg is correct, it was shot on digitial video which often gives a film a more washed out look, and lacks the color saturation of 35 mm film. However, it is often used when going for a more gritty, realistic look. Add to that the fact that the cameras are all handheld, and it might seem a little bit like a home movie.

"But what a story, huh?"
Peg says: "I found Scherfig's film truly inventive and moving and beautifully-acted, and certainly one of the better of the more recent Dogme films. I, too can't wait to see it again!"
Scot says: "'Italian' was my absolute favorite in Toronto." 5 cats