The film takes place in a squalid Copenhagen suburb where emotions and anxiety seemingly run amok. While the actual narrative is simplistic, it profiles six desperately needy and complicated individuals looking to fulfill themselves. When a recently widowed (and young) pastor named Andreas (Anders W. Berthelsen) arrives on the scene to take over the duties for a wayward congregation, he finds himself catering to the interests of a half dozen disillusioned individuals trying to make sense out of their empty lives.
Just as life shoots uncontrollable twists and turns at these folks, the characters also turn their attention into mastering the Italian tongue. The focus is meant to ease their frustrations over life and love, to the point where the "beginners" literally beg for a whole new beginning. Conquering the foreign language is a metaphor for the mending of a broken heart or the escape from the vicious circle of daily life. And yet the universe ends up completely in balance.
The highlight of the story is simply watching the six intertwining lives. Hal-Finn (Lars Kaalund) is the obnoxiously funny sports bar manager ordered to get a haircut by the big brass of his business. It's on this trip to get his hair trimmed that he meets and falls for the local hairdresser named Karen (Ann Eleonora Jørgensen). Karen, in turn, is the sibling of a clumsy-minded bakery employee named Olympia (Anette Støvelbæk). Olympia, it turns out, has an immense crush on her pastor Andreas, who tries to console her about her apparent awkwardness. Meanwhile, pesky hotel manager Jorgen (Peter Gantzler) has a selfish reason for needing to learn the Italian verbiage: He's smitten with an Italian waitress named Giulia (Sara Indrio Jensen) and wants to score points by impressing her with his new tongue.
Scherfig's light-hearted profile of emotional desperation is achingly honest and delightfully cheeky. She also manages to follow the Dogme restrictions (handheld camera only, utilization of natural light and sound, absence of a soundtrack, etc.) and gets them to work in her favor. The performances are solid, and Sherfig elevates a simple romantic comedy beyond Hollywood cliché. Consequently, Sherfig's project is tautly realized, swinging wildly between tragic and comic. Just like life.
In Danish and Italian with English subtitles. Aka Italiensk for begyndere.
First in Latin, then Italian.
Run time: 112 mins
In Theaters: Friday 8th December 2000
Box Office USA: $4.4M
Distributed by: Miramax Films
Production compaines: Det Danske Filminstitut, Danmarks Radio (DR)
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 74 Rotten: 10
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Lone Scherfig
Producer: Ib Tardini
Screenwriter: Lone Scherfig
Starring: Peter Gantzler as Jørgen Mortensen, Sara Indrio Jensen as Giulia, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen as Karen, Anders W. Berthelsen as Andreas, Anette Støvelbæk as Olympia, Lars Kaalund as Hal-Finn, Karen-Lise Mynster as Real Estate Dealer, Rikke Wölck as Nurse, Bent Mejding as Reverend Wredmann, Elsebeth Steentoft as Woman in Church, Lene Tiemroth as Karen's Mother, Claus Gerving as Klaus Graversen, Jesper Christensen as Olympia's Father, Carlo Barsotti as Marcello, Alex Nyborg Madsen as Church Singer#1 / Sportsman#1, Steen Svare as Church Singer#2 / Sportsman#2, Susanne Oldenburg as Lady, Martin Brygmann as Evening School Teacher
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