Italian for Beginners (2000) Review:

Dogme 95 for beginners.

He has a bear.
He has a bear.

Director: Lone Scherfig

Runtime: 112 minutes

Cast: Anders W. Berthelsen, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen, Anette Støvelbaek, Peter Gantzler, Lars Kaalund, et al…

Plot (taken from IMDb): Several lonely hearts in a semi-provincial suburb of a town in Denmark use a beginner’s course in Italian as the platform to meet the romance of their lives.

Newcastle is crap mate.
Newcastle is crap mate.

Italian for Beginners was part of the Dogme 95 movement of films in Denmark, which was created as a complete antithesis of Hollywood style. As an antithesis of Hollywood style, there is a complete lack of action, and it was filmed cheaply, with lesser known actors, shot entirely on location – without even troublesome effects such as lighting getting in the way, the Dogme movement took cinema back to its basics – storytelling and characters.

What we have with Italian for Beginners is a pleasant film that focuses on people finding love, although it is surrounded in depression. Indeed, each character is in a less-than-enviable situation, one cannot cope with her estranged mother, another is losing his job and another cannot cope with her father – however, this is a reassuring story that tells us you can find love even if your life may be pretty rotten.

italian for beginners 3
Ooh, something shiny.

The plot, although simple enough takes quite a while to kick in properly, and we are left with a fairly bloated film with a runtime that is simply too long for the subject matter – we spend too much time getting to know the characters, and then too much time knowing them in the middle of the film, which doesn’t ultimately add a whole lot to proceedings beyond some awkward encounters and subtext, pairing the characters together a little too slowly.

However, the acting holds the film up in its times of slowing down – it is very good throughout from the entirety of the cast. And even with the film’s limited budget, the cinematography is good, as is the sound and editing – however simple.

Although the acting is very good and the plot is solid, I don’t think the script quite maintains the quality, nor the directing. Italian for Beginners often slips into tedium, and as such, it doesn’t justify its lengthy runtime – or a strong recommendation.


Italian for Beginners offers a life-assuring plot and is quite tender in its storytelling, but unfortunately its strong acting from a solid cast cannot quite hold the film up from its slower, more tedious moments.

A good film, but not great, could be some people’s idea of quality though.



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