Top positive review
on 25 June 2015
Amongst the films that pertain to the Dogme manifesto, ‘Italian for Beginners’ appears to me as the most accessible and uplifting. In fact, those rules are soon forgotten once this delightfully heart-warming comedy captures our imagination, with its wry but natural humour and fascinatingly quirky but very human characterisations. It is a deeply satisfying experience that should leave anyone in a warm, life-affirming glow.
Particularly stimulating is the insightful way the story gradually introduces its protagonists, as realistically as how a visiting stranger slowly gets acquainted with the inhabitants of a new place. Anders W. Berthelsen, who plays the temporary pastor to this far-flung town, perfectly embodies an outsider’s awkwardness in unfamiliar surroundings, and by focusing on him to begin with, the film compels us to get to know the townsfolk just the same way as he does. Like making new friends while on holiday, we begin to progressively fathom these characters beyond their superficial peculiarities, until they become as endearing as intimate companions are. That bond we develop with these characters is strong enough to generate a lasting emotion as the movie concludes, which is akin to parting a pal after a great time together.
The largely improvised performances are as realistic as they come, and so is the unscripted dialogue. ’Italian for Beginners’ is comical without trying to be so, effortlessly drawing humour from real people in realistic situations, who are given centre stage in an understated directorial approach that Lone Scherfig is widely admired for. Some may see the two concurrent deaths in the storyline as too convenient for the plot and question their authenticity in a Dogme movie. That, I think, is being too pedantic, because the passing of these two insufferable characters not only brings much needed relief to their daughters, but plenty of hilarity to the proceedings too.