Italian for Beginners Review

Copenhagen. Andreas (Anders W. Berthelsen) arrives to take over the local church from the unstable local clergyman. Staying in a hotel, he’s befriended by Jørgen (Peter Gantzler). Andreas follows Jørgen along to an evening class in Italian. Jørgen fancies Giulia, a waitress at a sports bar run by another classmate, Hal-Finn (Lars Kaalund). In his turn, Hal-Finn has his eye on Karen (Ann Eleonora Jørgensen), but her alcholic mother constantly gets in the way…

Italian for Beginners is the twelfth film made under the Dogme 95 "Vow of Chastity". Dogme set several rules: natural lighting, hand-held camera, real locations and props, no music, no superficial action, films to be set in the present day, and so on. The movement first made an impact when the first two films made under its precepts, Thomas Vinterberg's Festen and Lars Von Trier’s The Idiots were both selected for competition at Cannes in 1998. Although Dogme co-founder Søren Kragh-Jacobsen’s Mifune (Dogme #3) won the Special Jury Prize (Silver Bear) at Berlin in 1999 and Kristian Levring’s The King is Alive (Dogme #4) is an interesting film, it’s fair to say that nothing produced under the Dogme banner has had the same impact as the initial two, and the original directors have moved on to other things. This is both inevitable and beside the point: there was certainly an element of publicity stunt behind Dogme, its back-to-basics approach to filmmaking (much of it shot on video) has had a wide influence on other directors and has even been felt in Hollywood in films such as Traffic. For that at least the experiment has been welcome.

Dogme-certified films continue to be made, in countries other than Denmark. Italian for Beginners is notable as being the first so-certified film to be directed by a woman. Like Mifune, it won the Berlin Silver Bear. These may serve as recommendations, but the film is a mild character-led comedy, pleasant enough while it’s on screen, but not lasting long in the memory. Shot on video like most other Dogme films, it’s a step up in picture quality from the deliberately lo-fi images of Festen and The Idiots. On a cinema screen, lines are occasionally visible, and video lends a yellowish hue to everything, flesh tones in particular. This is a well acted, decently made but finally rather inconsequential film.



out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 17:54:58

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