Italian for Beginners (2000)

Red Hair in Venice

You know, intelligent filmmakers are faced with all sorts of philosophical dilemmas, not the least of which are controversies over storytelling styles. Let’s call them the North and South.

The Northern style is a matter of creating a world whose fabric is a bit wrinkled and in the niches and loops collect people and situations. A fate drives their action. Actors respond. The “dogma” of filmmaking in this style is that the camera doesn’t create, nor do the actors really. It just discovers these wrinkles.

The Southern style has it the other way around: the world flows out of beings. Characters exist and interact and by breathing breath life into all that surrounds. The threads themselves have life and weave the world. In this world of storytelling and film, actors matter. They create. Artificial situations matter.

Now, one can imagine a young Danish filmmaker sitting down, full of these ideas and determined to meld the two. I am sure the whole project began with this notion of a redhaired Danish woman making love to an Italian on the streets of Venice. All evolves from that idea. The Danes come from a dogma, actually one dogma expressed in multiple ways — in the church, in the “rules of Dogma,” in the various petty social contrivances of their society. Naturally, they all seek to “learn” Italian. They are all beginners.

In true Nordic fashion, the one woman becomes three, with perfect, clockworks symmetries. Our redhead’s eminence is underscored by her role as hairdresser, with the others as reflection. The men either move or are moved depending how close to the dogma they are. Things move in various ways from North to South.

See this. It isn’t a great film by any means, but the idea behind it is both clever and intelligent. It is more about itself and film than about them. If you can see this (with a little work), its precious.

Posted in 2003

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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