banner image

:: Italian For Beginners

The fifth in a line of Danish Dogme films, Italian For Beginners is a refreshingly uncomplicated tale about six individuals living and working in a small Danish village. When Andreas (Berthelsen) is relocated to take over duties as the local pastor, he not only finds himself feeling a little out of place but also rather lonely. He soon befriends Jorgen (Gantzler), the concierge at the hotel in which he is temporarily accommodated. A lonely soul himself, Jorgen is shyly in love with Giulia (Indrio Jensen), a young waitress in the hotel cafe. Openly rude and ill tempered toward both Giulia and the customers, Hal-Finn (Kaalund), the cafe manager, is obviously also discontent with his life; his only passion being soccer and his beloved Juventus football team. All a little at odds with their lives, Andreas, Jorgen and Finn join a council-run Italian class and discover that they are not at all alone in their loneliness. Suffering loss and varying states of despair, the class members religiously attend the Italian lessons finding comfort within the company of others like themselves.

Essentially a romantic comedy, Italian For Beginners succeeds triumphantly over its genre counterparts through its brutally honest mode of storytelling. Created with a firm foundation in the guidelines established within the Dogme manifesto, the film does not lend itself to make-believe, instead bringing forth realism seldom seen in films of its kind. A genuine Dogme film, Italian For Beginners strictly follows what is known as the Vow of Chastity- a set of rules lay down by the Dogme director collective to challenge the far-fetched nature of cinema in today's day and age. Fake lighting, costumes and sets are not allowed in Dogme certified films and dialogue and sound cannot be produced apart from the image. These restrictions aim to emphasise depth in plot and character and keep the films fabrication-free.

The love stories found in Italian For Beginners are not portrayed through rose coloured glasses- in fact, there is a reality found by Scherfig within the characters and their situations that make them seem oddly familiar and gently humorous. Free from stereotypes, this film depicts loss, loneliness and love in a down-to-earth and unforced manner. For filmgoers tired of sugarcoated love stories, Italian For Beginners mixes melancholy with comedy in a way that truly warms the cockles of your heart.



Directed by: Ben Chessell
Production: VCA Film and Television School Australia 2001 13 minutes
Released by: Palace Films. Rating: M

Screened exclusively with all sessions of Italian For Beginners, The Only Person In The World is Ben Chessell's sixth short film to date. Highlighting the emotions experienced by a young man during a relationship breakdown, the film fuses elements of humour and sadness as Damien tells the tale of his lost love, Sarah. Amid a rather frank discussion with Sarah's dad and the realisation that she's found another lover, Damien somehow manages to make peace with his situation and carry on with his life. Witty and well directed, The Only Person In The World deals with its awkward subject matter in a mature and thoughtful way, leading me to believe that this is not the last audiences have seen of young filmmaker Ben Chessell.

Screening at Cinema Nova and Cinema Como