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Italian for Beginners

By Adele Marley | Posted

An appealing ensemble piece by Danish director Lone Scherfig, Italian for Beginners has a gentler touch than most Dogme 95 films (call it Dogme lite) but a rougher edge than most conventional romantic comedies. The film follows the overlapping and intertwining lives of six Dutch thirtysomething singles, including a recently widowed, Maserati-driving pastor (Mifune's Anders Berthelsen), a klutzy blond bakery cashier (Anette Støvelbaek), a serene hairdresser (Ann Eleonora Jørgensen) who cares for her irascible, sickly mother, and a hotheaded, startlingly rude barkeep with a tender streak (Lars Kaalund), among others. Although the Italian-language class they attend provides ample opportunity for the characters to meet cute and pair off, the script hedges its bets by relying too heavily on coincidence and chance encounters. (Can Copenhagen possibly be that sparsely populated?) The stringent tenets of Dogme (handheld cameras, real locations, natural light, etc.) infuse Italian for Beginners with prickly realism, however, making particularly cogent the film's observation that regardless of whether you're especially cute, bright, pleasant, or well adjusted, everyone deserves a shot at love.

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