AFED #48: Italian for Beginners (Denmark, 2000); Dir. Lone Scherfig

It's slightly unnerving when, at the start of Italian for Beginners, you see it was produced under the guidelines of Dogme 95, the quasi avant-garde manifesto for film-making devised by renowned director Lars von Trier.

Fortunately, while it presumably adheres to Dogme principles, that doesn't prevent director Lone Scherfig from telling a charming romantic comedy about misfits finding love in a small Danish town. Although the film is shot in a handheld verite style there's none of the detachment this approach can create.

The story revolves around six lonely individuals, three men and three women, who all enroll to take Italian lessons at the local community centre. When their teacher rather inconveniently dies one of the group takes over his duties and they carry on. Gradually they pair off, two of the women discover they are actually long-lost sisters, and the story ends with a group trip to Venice.

Although Scherfig didn't admit so at the time she'd actually 'borrowed' the idea from a novel by the Irish writer Maeve Binchy. Although a settlement was later reached this plagiarism rather casts a pall on this twee but humourous story, which offers the promise that even the most hopeless amongst us can find happiness. I'd love to believe it.


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