Italiensk for begyndere (2000) Poster

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Nine Lovely People, No Villains!
Ralph Michael Stein24 January 2002
What a pleasure "Italian for Beginners" is. Each character is appealing as well as complex and recognizable. A new pastor, bereft after his wife's death, interacts with an assortment of people who by accident or stumbling and fumbling intent come together in overlapping relationships. Romance is in the air, deaths dislocate several of the characters' lives, comedic movements help all to cope with the vagaries of life.

Taking place mostly in Denmark (with a restaurant manager whose style convinces me that he must have done an internship in a New York City eatery), the story revolves around the central goal of learning Italian. Only one of the main characters is from Italy, a beautiful waitress with the clearest agenda of anyone in the film. After wrestling through a non-Berlitz approach to the language all head for Venice where hearts meet and fun reigns.

Dogma 95 certificate or not, this is a convincing, endearing, excellent film. By intent or otherwise, many scenes are shot with a slight jerkiness that adds to a viewer's sense of inclusion.

Unfortunately this film won't screen in many theatres and rentals and sales will be the path to a wider audience. And this film merits a very big following.
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Charm that grows on you
WriConsult12 April 2003
I have to admit, after the first few minutes I was wondering if I'd even manage to finish the whole thing. Also, as this was the first Dogme film I'd seen, I was also really questioning the whole concept. The opening scenes seemed amateurish in both filming and acting, with jerky editing and camera movements, and seemingly one-dimensional characters. But it really grew on me as I kept watching. The more the characters revealed themselves, the more sympathetic and complex they became. It actually became quite engrossing as the film progressed. There were just so many moments of geniune warmth and humor. In fact, what really struck me about this film after it was all over was its geniuneness. I haven't seen anything so heartwarming in a long time. 8/10.
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Thoroughly enjoyable and totally devoid of Hollywood-style contrivance
Xenon2422 February 2003
I had the pleasure of seeing Italiensk for begyndere in a pretty small, intimiate cinema, which set the audience up beautifully for this movie.

The characters really drive this story, rather than the film pushing the characters around. What results is a movie that takes its own time to say what it needs to say, and that allows us to gain insight on what really is a broad spectrum of very human, very diverse personalities.

Romantic comedies-dramas, by and large, are pretty hit-and-miss, though more miss than hit if they come from Hollywood. They're bogged down in clichés, saccarine melodrama and characters that don't at all behave like real people. Italiensk for begyndere avoids all that, giving us characters that could just as well be the person sitting three seats from you in the cinema, that's how human they are.

I didn't feel at all cheated with this film, and left the cinema feeling like I saw a film that speaks to people. Superb.
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jotix10021 March 2002
This is a very intimate and enjoyable film. It shows every day characters in their own surroundings interacting in a manner that is very naturalistic and true. Director Lone Scherfig has directed with a sure hand and the situation is believable.

The ensemble cast plays well, as it is with the majority of the Dogme95 films. At times, they make us forget that we are watching a film, as it struck me, that I was just intruding in the life of a bunch of people in that town in Denmark.

What is amazing is that the film doesn't become an Italian travelogue as it would have been the case had this story been done by a non-Scandinavian director with pressures from studio heads. It has the right amount ingredients and it makes a delicious minestrone for all to enjoy.

Bravi a tutti!
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Dogma For Beginners
mmq00712 March 2002
This is a pleasant and entertaining little movie and it was fun seeing new faces and styles. The story is interesting and relevant. The people believable and charming. I enjoyed getting to know them as they got to know each other. the film employs a delicate approach to such topics as death, impotence, God and loneliness. I wasn't always enthralled. A couple of scenes dragged a bit and my attention began to wander. The woes and goals of some characters lacked originality. The situations have been depicted many times in many movies. None the less, I was never bored, never annoyed and did not feel slighted as the viewer.

An impressive cast and tight direction keep the show moving efficiently and provide a dependable vehicle for the delivery of the intended results in a satisfying manner.

What surprised me was the number of cinematic conventions incorporated into a project that reportedly meant to avoid them. I claim no authority on the Dogma 95 movement, but I understand they aspire to strip a movie of as many mainstream cliches as possible. Standard story elements and cinematography are not what the filmmakers wish to present.

One of the conventions they frown on is the artificial insertion of background music. Yet this movie does use such incidental music in one scene, in a very traditional format. It's even an old, familiar tune. Like "Rock Of Ages" at a funeral or "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" when we see Yankee Stadium. And for an approach expected to break with tradition, there is an awful lot of happily ever after in the resolutions to the various conflicts.

The average looking actors and the less than beautiful scenery add greatly to the believability. The fun they, and in turn, we have with it offsets any flaws in the production. But it's going to take more than a hand held camera and a Scandinavian accent to overcome 100 years of accepted film technique. But I enjoyed the show and if they keep trying, I'll keep watching.
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One fine romantic comedy
dlpatrick119 February 2005
This is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding romantic comedies at the beginning of the decade. A Dogma 95 film, this movie exemplifies the challenges put up by the group of film makers that created Dogma 95 in Copenhagen. DOGMA 95 counters the individual film by the principle of presenting an indisputable set of rules known as THE VOW OF CHASTITY. The rules (10 in all) include principles such as: shooting must be done on location (scenes in Venezia) and on a sound stage used to rehearse Sound of Music--an auditorium where the Italian classes are held. Music should not be used unless it occurs where hte scene is being shot (how refreshing not to have Hollywood scores interrupting the natural sound). Hand-held camera-- this produces a feeling that you are doing the filming yourself. I felt that when Andreas was swimming in the hotel pool. Special lighting is not acceptable -- again the auditorium and the lights. Or the restaurant lighting. The characters in this movie are so real one feels you have met them before. You can read the plot elsewhere if you haven't seen this movie. There are pairings in this movie that show romance at its best -- forgiveness for the foible (Olympia was probably born with fetal alcohol syndrome-- Andreas understands this and near the end when he suggests she sing in the church choir, he suggests they prepare for her falling over into the pews. Giulia's budding love for Jorgen Mortensen is a treat -- little prayers in the kitchen -- and rehearsal for the big moments. This movie even treats impotence with the gentleness and humor and understanding that the best of life can deal. Perhaps most erotic is the scene where Karen washes Hal-Finn's hair in her salon -- ummmm! Not enough can be said about this movie. So to cut it short -- go see it -- watch it several times. A magical experience awaits -- where real people with real foibles find real connection.
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Another dogme hit.
McBuff16 February 2001
At the time of writing, "Italian for beginners" is a big hit on the Berlin Film Festival. The reason may be that it´s another film made under the Dogme 95 certificate, but it can easily stand on its own, without comparison to "The Celebration", "The Idiots" and "Mifune". Basically it´s a comedy-drama (although one of the Dogme rules prohibits genre definition) telling several interwoven stories connected by the Italian-for-beginners-class. There are a whole variety of characters: the young pastor, the hothead short order cook from the sports restaurant, the clumsy girl from the bakery etc. All very recognizable everyday types, but beautifully realized by its talented cast, with special kudos to Peter Gantzler, cast against type and hilariously underplaying as the nerdish impotent hotel clerk. Lars Kaalund is also very funny, sporting a very authentic sounding Italian.

Director Lone Scherfig has made a very endearing, romantic film that is very universal in its tone, which is probably why it has performed so well at the Berlin film festival. For a feel-good movie experience, you should definitely go see "Italian for beginners".
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A Delightful Romance in Dogma 95
Claudio Carvalho10 May 2004
In Denmark, six lonely persons are having Italian classes sponsored by the City Hall. Jørgen Mortensen (Peter Gabtzler) is a shy hotel manager who has a crush on Giulia (Sara Indrio Jensen), a young Italian woman who works in an Italian restaurant and is secretly in love with him. Olympia (Anette Støvelbæk) is a clumsy clerk of a candy shop, who lives with her sullen father and is in love with Andreas (Anders W. Berthelsen), a young widow priest recently arrived in town. And the hairdresser Karen (Ann Eleonora Jørgensen), whose mother is an alcoholic woman, who loves Hal-Finn (Lars Kaalund), an incompetent and aggressive bar manager of the hotel where his best friend Jørgen Mortensen works. I am not a fan of Dogma 95 movies (the movement which uses handheld camera, natural light and sound and no special effects), but in this delightful romance the actors are so spontaneous that indeed it works. This unconventional love story, with euthanasia, common people, losers in general, Danish persons speaking Italian, is actually a great romance. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): ` Italiano Para Principiantes' (`Italian For Beginners')
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Proof that budget doesn't matter
potblackettle28 July 2003
A clever film, with low production values but a witty script and great cast. The characters are so real and vivid. You sympathize with them, want them to succeed. There are so many tiny little things that make it leap from the screen. As you become caught up in the story you forget that the camera is a little shaky, the video not always perfectly focused. The scenes in Italy are absolutly beautiful. The director uses colors well, the color of the characters clothes reflects their emotions. Never heavy handed or pushy, just a sweet little film.
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I had much fun watching this movie
LeRoyMarko26 March 2006
What an evening well spent watching this film. It's poignant, touching, funny. It explores themes that are not always easy to talk about on the big screen: euthanasia for one, impotence for another. It also touches the tragedy of losing someone close to you. The cast is very good, all six of them, but especially Anette Stovelbaeck, Ann Eleonara Jorgensen and Peter Gantzler. And Sara Indrio Jensen is superb! Too bad she hasn't played in another movie. The dogme style goes well with this story. But one must get pass the first 10 minutes or so during which the hand-held camera can make you a bit dizzy!

Seen at home, in Toronto, on March 25th, 2006.

80/100 (***)
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feelings protagonists
madrig8024 January 2004
The true protagonists of this movie are not the characters, but their feelings. In particular, I admired the skills of the director in entering into the desire of the "Danish" for the warmth and liveliness that Italians exhibit. If you can not stand the the fact that the camera is constantly moving and nobody has any make up, then, do not watch it. However, you would miss a funny and heartwarming movie with no frills and enjoyable hidden messages, for example that friendship and love can bring the sun of Italy into one's heart, or that life can always take unexpected turns.
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More is Less. . . and Less can be More
colcam14 March 2002
Slightly too fast paced for the extensive subtitles, Italiensk for begyndere can be watched and enjoyed even if you do not understand a word of the dialog. In an audience of "English only speakers" over two thirds of those present were unable to keep up with the subtitles-- but all present enjoyed it. The writing was superb, the acting wonderful, and the overall product well suited to the dogme95 concept. Even so, it would have worked as well (if not better) as a standard production. I'm almost afraid to say it, but I expect an American remake before long-- in spirit if not in word for word translation.

See it in the theater, then enjoy talking it over with the rest of the audience, or wait until it comes out on DVD and invite a least a dozen people over for critical mass viewing.
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A Most Unusual Movie
happipuppi1315 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Had the chance to watch this on DVD last night and was completely taken by surprise.

First,the most obvious unusual thing,the movie is on video-tape.

Much like a PBS documentary or one of those more serious "reality" shows. Maybe a slight touch of foreign country soap-opera's as well.

It should be no surprise that I thought,"As a film this can't possibly work in terms of drama or humor",since it's not on standard celluloid used in almost all films.

Happy to say I was wrong. Every main character is very well fleshed out and very engaging. The females are fair to very strong characters and the men are very differing in character but none are caricatures or stereotypical movie males,thankfully.

I felt the idea of all coming together because of a class in learning Italian was a fresh idea as well,including their eventual trip to Vienna itself.

Quite simply,ten stars..... and I know I may just check this out more than once. (END)
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An ensemble film with sincerity and a clever twist, but very basic filming
secondtake29 December 2010
Italian for Beginners (2000)

A very sweet, romantic, warm movie about a bunch of slightly lonely, slightly misfit Danes who meet through an Italian class. There is a dysfunctional church (probably not uncommon in Denmark), a quaint bakery, a hairdresser's, and so on, adding to a kind of small town reality where everything has conviction.

As much as this is all good--and it is good, if not great--it's also decided low budget in a kind of clunky way. The acting is fine--people are themselves, I suppose, or like fairly normal people--and the story line is cute and clever. But the filming and direction borders on a really good home movie. It's a 97 minute affair of course, and doesn't feel thrown together or amateurish, merely so simple and plain, visually, it becomes conspicuous.

But if you can just enjoy the interpersonal lives, and some budding love affairs (and who can't), and a final section in Venice, you might find it a sweet joy.
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Love can be learned, say Amore!
clevelandrachel21 July 2007
Italian for Beginners is a superbly directed film in the stylistic tradition of Dogma 95 productions; an anonymous director, the on location sets, and the natural acting create a bare cinematography where the story begins in the very routine lives of six individuals from a small town in Denmark, whose lives intersect at church, in the restaurant, at the hotel and in school. The film quietly plucks these characters off the streets- out of their disparaged mundane environments- into a classroom in hopes of learning something new.

Love begins in a neglected classroom, where the couples gather to learn Italian and experience a hope of something greater than their own misfortune. The comical harshness of the over-zealous Finn as their instructor foreshadow their determination to find something from these lessons as they repeat lines together about love and how to be in love.

Finally the streets of Venice offer a rich reward for the couples who now have the opportunity to practice what they've learned. A low-lit restaurant in Venice offers new beginnings for the couples that share a very common meal but with a new hope for their lives together. The mundane, disparate, somber tone of the dogma is lifted into a beautiful cannon of what love can be.
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Feel Bad, Feel Good Fantasy
Gerald Dorman17 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The first part of this film portrays very grim reality with a forthrightness not often experienced in a non-documentary film. It is a relentless cavalcade of death, either shown or described. Spoken, about wives who have died in terrible ways; shown, parents who die in miserable circumstances. And a teacher dying in front of his students. All in the first half-hour. And, to be sure, extremely powerfully and expertly filmed. And then a fairy god-mother shows up, a nurse who conspires and covers up the euthanasia killing of one of our main character's mother. And this leads to revelations and relationships that transform the stories of our characters to the never-land of movie happily-ever-after. It is all extremely well written and performed; contrary to other critiques, the so-called "low production values" work very well throughout. The euthansia-girl, Karen, is especially well acted and believable throughout. And attractive, in a very real sense, with a blemished face and all. The happy-ever-after fantasy of the last part of the film can be looked upon as a catharsis, or just candy for the masses, or the way lives can be pulled up from the depths. It all can work, if a viewer wishes. But it is the unrelenting and honest depiction of real-life misery in the first part of the film that gives the film its real quality and qualifies the film as an important achievement.
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Dogma for beginners
pellegrino5 May 2003
If there is one thing originating from Denmark that the world can be thankful for, it's the Dogma 95. Although the rules are more or less constantly broken by the directors, it has served it's purpose well - inspiring the creativity to new levels. The Dogma provides the movies with an injection of reality. Through (e.g.) the hand-held camera, the more or less nonexistent soundtrack, the lack of special lightning and the fact that the actors actually carry their own clothes, you get a feeling of authenticity that very seldomly (if ever) appears in the standard big-budget-movie.

To the film: It's a story about friendship, about finding someone to trust or even love. Most of the main characters have different emotional problems, giving them problems with normal social relations - something that we all can relate to in times of crisis. They all use the Italian language course as a way to meet someone, nurturing a hope for closeness. The different Christian symbols and themes also give the film depths that might not be so easily seen, watching the movie for the first time. One might be a bit disappointed that the main story is a bit simple - but take another look, and think a step further. It will give you a rarely experienced insight into man and religion.
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Subtle humour
sptsilva11 September 2002
An excellent movie with a very good plot and a quite subtle humour. I had already seen danish movies before, well, von Triers' movies (whose movies I really like), but this one was a very pleasent surprise.

Northern Europe's humour isn't the most famous one, but I must confess that this feature is very well exploited in the movie.
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Real People (really)
Larry16 March 2002
The thing I appreciated about this flick were the actors. Here I saw real people acting the way folks like you and me act in similar situations. None of the silly fresh faced cuteness that one sees on local programming of the 'Friends' genre. Here were people we could all relate with, people we know and have interacted with. After watching the various romances unfold I left the theater with the good feeling of, 'yep, that's the way it really happens.'
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Contrived romantic comedy still manages to make one smile
KFL2 July 2003
Stereotypes of European nationalities are quite relevant here. A half-dozen somewhat buttoned-down Danes gather for Italian lessons, and the lessons, aided by encounters in a church, a hairdresser's, a restaurant, get the members to think about latin romance, free themselves from inhibitions, loosen up a bit.

A half-dozen or so Danes and one or two Italians interact in four or five settings in an unnamed Danish city. This is a very small world the characters inhabit...when we see a mass attended by perhaps one hundred people late in the movie, we are surprised, because until then we are hardly ever shown anyone other than the handful of central characters. This is a measure of the contrived artificiality of the film, which only gets worse in the last third of the movie. Even so, I found myself smiling. These people are right for each other--why not have them get together in the end? Just because it's a Dogma film from Denmark doesn't mean perforce it has to be mired in doom and gloom.

You can tell the director loves the characters...she makes sure we understand them all well enough to be able to understand their past hardships and handicaps, and so forgive them their present foibles.
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Red Hair in Venice
tedg6 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

You know, intelligent filmmakers are faced with all sorts of philosophical dilemmas, not the least of which are controversies over storytelling styles. Let's call them the North and South.

The Northern style is a matter of creating a world whose fabric is a bit wrinkled and in the niches and loops collect people and situations. A fate drives their action. Actors respond. The `dogma' of filmmaking in this style is that the camera doesn't create, nor do the actors really. It just discovers these wrinkles.

The Southern style has it the other way around: the world flows out of beings. Characters exist and interact and by breathing breath life into all that surrounds. The threads themselves have life and weave the world. In this world of storytelling and film, actors matter. They create. Artificial situations matter.

Now, one can imagine a young Danish filmmaker sitting down, full of these ideas and determined to meld the two. I am sure the whole project began with this notion of a redhaired Danish woman making love to an Italian on the streets of Venice. All evolves from that idea. The Danes come from a dogma, actually one dogma expressed in multiple ways - in the church, in the `rules of Dogma,' in the various petty social contrivances of their society. Naturally, they all seek to `learn' Italian. They are all beginners.

In true Nordic fashion, the one woman becomes three, with perfect, clockworks symmetries. Our redhead's eminence is underscored by her role as hairdresser, with the others as reflection. The men either move or are moved depending how close to the dogma they are. Things move in various ways from North to South.

See this. It isn't a great film by any means, but the idea behind it is both clever and intelligent. It is more about itself and film than about them. If you can see this (with a little work), its precious.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 4: Has some interesting elements.
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Excellent, may be first good Dogma 95 film
taylor988522 February 2002
We have been waiting for a good comedy for some time, something that adults could watch without squirming. There is not a single joke about seminal fluid in food, in people's hair or anywhere else. The performances are all good: Anders Berthelsen is better here than he was in Mifune, Ann Eleonora Jorgensen and Anette Stovelbaek are very effective as two women who find out they are sisters and aren't very happy about it, and Lars Kaalund is the most anti-social waiter you could imagine.

I want to single out Kaalund for praise here. He has inherited the crown of the late Patrick Dewaere who could be both charming and sinister; able to seduce women with a smile and a wink then destroy them with a few well-chosen words, or play Iago to somebody's Othello. Dewaere's relationship with Depardieu in Les valseuses was one of the great suppressed homosexual couplings in modern film. I thought too of Matt Damon's Mr. Ripley as I watched Kaalund skulking around the other characters, sizing them up, seeing how far he could go.
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4 Funerals and it Really Sucked
spinbunny7 July 2003
This is one of the worst movies I have ever seen --- first of all, it was filmed on crappy videotape instead of film and the entire "movie" jumped up and down (hear of a tripod??? it doesn't move up and down...)

Let's see .... four morose funerals, eternal talk of impotency, about 3 minutes in Italy, drunken fights, non-stop talk of death, and the cover is total false advertising (I expected a lush, romantic comedy set in Italy and I got a sucky morose drag set in a 2 cent set in Denmark!).

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Neat Movie... just right...
Jose Guilherme3 July 2002
Its not a very serious movie with great names so don't expect oscars for this one... but for reasonably light and romantic viewing this is great. You leave the theatre happy and very satisfied.

It begins somewhat slow... but sure enough picks up a little. Characters are very very likeable if not exactly believable some of them. Neat movie and somehow gets everything quite right in the end.
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A slice of fun and bittersweet joy
Swangirl4 March 2002
For those who prefer the formulaic Hollywood blockbuster, the Danish film "Italian for Beginners" won't be for you. Why? When you see that most of the actors are not perfect physical specimens with salon-like hairdos, you'll be running for the doors.

Fortunately, for those of us who like a little reality in our films, Italian for Beginners is a little slice of fun and bittersweet joy.

Set in a small Copenhagen town, its clear from the start that this film is about the ensemble, not their surroundings. A widowed pastor, ditzy shopgirl, shy desk clerk, boorish waiter and isolated waitress are a few of the characters. They somehow end up together learning Italian, but learning a lot more about life and death together.

Each character has his/her unique flavor but the one who seems to draw them together most is the pastor Andreas, new to town. His simple demeanor seems to move each one to confess their secret fears and woes to him. Amid his own loneliness, Andreas starts to come out of his own shell and step into the sun.

This movie won't bowl you over with big moral messages or deep emotional pathos. But I was very drawn to the simplicity of it and the humanity of each character. Each one seems to learn something about themselves that ripples through the others.
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