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Andreas (Anders W. Berthelsen) is the new Pastor, whose predecessor went berserk and pushed the organist off the balcony. Andreas, attracted to Olympia (Anette Støvelbæk), who lives with her abusive father, is temporarily living at a hotel and makes friends with the desk clerk Jorgen Mortensen (Peter Gantzler), who is afraid he is impotent. Halvfinn (Lars Kaalund) is drawn to hairdresser Karen (Ann Eleanora Jorgensen), whose mother is critically ill. Giulia (Sara Indrio Jensen) is an Italian waitress who has a crush on Jorgen. All these characters come together at the local council’s weekly class of Italian for beginners.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Perhaps the most mainstream of Dogme films, Italian for Beginners could also be a movie for beginners: beginners in love, beginners in filmmaking and beginners in film appreciation. The film is not quite the success it might have been, but that’s the result of the script not the Dogme technique of filmmaking chastity. 

The weaknesses are built-in: it’s a film that draws together disparate characters with dark humour and touches of savage satire. We are never sure how much the filmmaker respects his characters, which gives the film a colder edge than the genre requires – but I suspect that’s deliberate. Although it’s lightweight in thematic terms, there are several deaths and enough family twists to fill a couple of soap episodes, yet the underlying bleakness of the humour saves the film from anything resembling corn or cloying sentimentality. And for those who think politically incorrect jokes are the best, you’ll enjoy one subtle but pointed joke at the expense of Icelanders, who are notorious consumers of alcohol. (The short scene refers to a guest’s mini bar.) But the best part is its economical ability to portray characters whose crises somehow matter to us.

Special Features reviewed by Louise Keller:
Just as theatrical audiences saw the short film “The Only Person I the World” before each screening of the film, DVD audiences can also view. It’s a delightful film about a young man who plays the trombone, his girlfriend and her new guitar-playing American boyfriend. It’s a story about relationships – being together, breaking up and communicating with parents. Love can be a complicated thing, we are told, and often blindingly simple. Sometimes moving on just happens. Worth a look.

The Danish extras may be specialised, but bloopers are bloopers in any language, so there are a few laughs there. Those interested in reading about Dogme, will be keen to have a look at the Dogme 95 manifesto, which lays out the rules of Dogme filmmaking. There are also biographies, trailers and a photo gallery.

Published September 25, 2003

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Italiensk for begyndere

CAST: Anders W. Berthelsen, Anette Støvelbæk, Peter Gantzler, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen, Lars Kaalund, Sara Indrio Jensen

DIRECTOR: Lone Scherfig

SCRIPT: Lone Scherfig

PRESENTATION: 16 : 9 widescreen;

SPECIAL FEATURES: RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes Danish language extras – deleted scenes, bloopers, tv spots; Read the Dogme 95 manifesto; Photo gallery; Cast and Crew biographies; trailer; Bonus short film – The Only Person I the World;

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: September 24, 2003

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