Italian for Beginners: Scherfig's Dogme Film

Lone Scherfig’s third feature, “Italian for Beginners,” which world-premiered at the Berlin Film Fest to critical acclaim, displays the main tenets of the Danish film movement Dogme 95,

including a low budget digital video, and natural lighting

The movement began five years ago by maverick fillmmaker Lars von Trier, and has inspired about ten films to date, including Von Trier’s Idiots, Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration, Soren Kragh Jaobsen’s Mifune, and Kristian Levring’s The King is Alive.

Miramax Films has acquired the film for $600,000 for distribution in the U.S. and other English=speaking countries.

Scherfig’s charming fable, a rather simple fairy tale, is not as bold or audacious as the Dogme works of the masters, but it showcases a strong ensemble of actors.

A young substitute minister, who recently lost his wife, arrives in a small suburb, where he encounters a group of lonely hearts. Soon, he persuades them to join them in an evening clurse for learning Italian.

Some of the dialogue feels free, natural and improvisational, which fits the light, flimsy, rather contrived tale of a group thirtysomething, comprised of a waitress, a baker, a hairdresser and a restauranteur, some of whom still feel family pressures in trying to establish independent identities.

The film mixes gentle humor with human sadness, without overdoing either. Scherfig is reportedly the first woman to direct according to Dogme’s tenets. She had previously worked for stage and radio, making some popular commercial. The two features that she wrote and directed before “Ïtalian for Beginners,” “The Birthday Trip” and “On Our Own,” had played at Berlin Film Fest.


Screenplay: Lone Scherfig.
Camera: Joergen Johansson.
Sound: Rune Palving.
Editing: Gerd Tjur.


Peter Gantzler, Anders W. Bertelsen, Anette Stovelbaek, Ann Leonora Jorgensen, Lars Kaalund, Sara Indio Jensen.