Beyond Realistic

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Italian for Beginners (Italiensk For Begyndere)
Year: 2000
Language: Danish, Italian
Director: Lone Scherig
Cast: Anders W. Berthelsen, Anette Støvelbæk, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen, Lars Kaalund

Well, for starters all the synopses for this movie read ‘Romantic comedy!’ and ‘Lighthearted comedy’ among others. I thought to myself – perfect! The other movie I have reviewed this month is a serious one with a dark theme so this seemed a good way to offset the somber mood. Well, it is anything but! Following stories of different people who are all connected in some way, we are drawn into their lives and the darkest moments. The characters are woven around real, serious issues of family and history. Made in the style of the Dogme 95 movement, this film is Dogme XII and the use of natural lighting and hand-held cameras make for an extremely realistic movie-watching experience. Andreas (Berthelsen), the priest joins the Church in the town in which the movie is set, hoping to fill the Pastor’s position. His sadness lies in the loss of his wife and the constant struggle to become an inspiring Pastor. Olympia (Støvelbæk) is a young, pretty lady who works in a bakery and is plagued by the curse of the ‘butter fingers’! She is chronically clumsy and seems to always be dropping cakes and buns. She lives with her father who is verbally abusive.  Karen (Jørgensen) is the local hairdresser whose mother is severely ill with various addictions, and frequently visits her salon in a wretched state begging for money. Jorgen Mortensen is the receptionist at the Hotel in which Andreas, the priest stays. Halvfinn (Lars Kaalund) is the young, fiery and boorish man in charge of one of the restaurants of the Hotel and Giulia is his Italian assistant. Giulia and Jorgen are in love with each other but neither of them knows of the other’s love!

All of them attend an Italian class in the village to escape the drudgery of their highly stressful lives and this is where the title of the movie comes from. This is but a miniscule portion of the entire movie, though. The movie really takes off when their teacher dies and they all decide to take a trip to Italy. In Venice, Jorgen and Giulia look past the barriers of language as Jorgen confesses his love for her all in Danish. Luckily, Giulia’s broken understanding of Danish makes for a sweet pudding of a scene! In Venice, we see romance, comedy and the light-heartedness of it all! In addition, the budding romance between the pastor and Olympia and the seedlings of a relationship between the sexually charged Halvfinn and Karen dissipate the gloomy overtones of the rest of the movie. The movie has a twist as well, a secret that is revealed after the deaths of Olympia’s father and Karen’s mother. Watch this movie with low to zero expectations of romance and comedy and you will not be disappointed.

Verdict: A serious movie with a few light-hearted moments.
Rating: 3stars
Hot: Extremely realistically etched stories of misery
Not: Not as comedic as it is made out to be!