Reviewer's Rating 3 out of 5  
Italian for Beginners (Italiensk for Begyndere) (2002)

Currently with no less than 25 official movies made under the so-called 'vow of chastity' - natural light, non-professional actors, handheld photography and so on - you'd be forgiven for thinking Dogme 95 has had its day.

Yet thankfully "Italian for Beginners" proves that there's life in the old manifesto yet, and that jumping on the stylistic bandwagon need not necessarily be a cop-out.

Lone Scherfig is the first female director to work under the strictures of the manifesto and has crafted a charming comedy set around the inhabitants of a small town near Copenhagen.

The title refers to a college course that various thirtysomething, single inhabitants attend as a form of solace from their everyday lives.

There's Jørgen (Gantzler), an impotent man trying to woo Italian waitress Andreas (Berthelsen); the town's newly appointed minister, Halvfinn (Kaalund), who takes over the class when the original tutor dies; and finally Karen (Jørgensen) and Olympia (Støvelbæk), two women who find they are sisters when their father dies.

Despite pretty much adhering to the Dogme stylistic rules, "Italian for Beginners" will probably do more for the movement than it has done for the film.

True, there's an intimate quality to the shaky, handheld camerawork, but where Scherfig triumphs is in her well-drawn characters.

Human without being overly sentimental, the film is touching and written with humour by its director, even though - like all romance - it relies too heavily on coincidence.

Coupled with consistently strong performances from the ensemble cast, "Italian for Beginners" is a warm and genuine crowd pleaser.

In Danish with English subtitles.

End Credits

Director: Lone Scherfig

Writer: Lone Scherfig

Stars: Anders W Berthelsen, Anette Støvelbæk, Peter Gantzler, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen, Lars Kaalund, Sara Indrio Jensen, Elsebeth Steentoft

Genre: Comedy, World Cinema

Length: 112 minutes

Cinema: 26 April 2002

Country: Denmark

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