“The film takes place in a squalid Copenhagen suburb where emotions and anxiety seemingly run amok. While the actual narrative is simplistic, it profiles six desperately needy and complicated individuals looking to fulfill themselves… Just as life shoots uncontrollable twists and turns at these folks, the characters also turn their attention into mastering the Italian tongue. The focus is meant to ease their frustrations over life and love, to the point where the 'beginners' literally beg for a whole new beginning. Conquering the foreign language is a metaphor for the mending of a broken heart or the escape from the vicious circle of daily life. And yet the universe ends up completely in balance” (Frank Ochieng, Filmcritic.com).
Six singles — whose sentimental life, in the cold and bleak Copenhagen, is in pieces — are “saved” by an introductory Italian class. Italian is synonymous with love, and the protagonists are novices in love as much as they are in speaking Italian. Italian language and culture is the catalyst for love and the chance for a new beginning. The plot — as we will see later during the course — is the classical “Italian (Romantic) Paradigm”: the typical representation of Italy in the Grand Tour narrative.
The movie follows the Dogme 95 movement developed by Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, Kristian Levring, and Soren Kragh-Jacobsen. The objective of the Dogma 95 movement is to encourage a sense of plainness in filmmaking, free of postproduction alterations. Von Trier and Vinterberg formulated a set of ten rules that a Dogme film must conform to.
1. Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).
2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot.
3. The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. The film must not take place where the camera is standing; shooting must take place where the film takes place.
4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera.
5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
6. The film must not contain superficial action. Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.
7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. That is to say that the film takes place here and now.
8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
9. The film format must be Academy 35mm film.
10. The director must not be credited.
I cannot affirm that the eight “commandment” is not entirely maintained, but it is interesting to observe that the power of the Italian romantic myth “survives” to Dogme 95. Here you can find the entire script of the movie. Below the dialogue beween Jørgen and Giulia. Language barriers do not exists; we are in Venice, the city of romantic love.
Giulia, I know you can't understand what I'm saying. But I'll say it anyway.
I'm ten years older than you and I'm not really good at anything.
I've no relatives any more. I'm no good at my job.
I've no hobbies. Apart from doing Italian. And that's really for Halvfinn's sake, - because I'm no real good at languages. I can't even say anything to you.
Actually I think I'm rather dull. I certainly haven't your temperament.
And sex isn't something I feel confident about any more.
I know you don't understand what I'm saying.
But if I don't say it now I'll never get it said.
But I love you, Giulia, and I want to be with you for always.
I'd like to have children ...... and to watch you get older ... and grow old.
I'll love you every day from when I wake up till we do to bed at night.
I so much want to marry you, Giulia.
I do understand a bit of Danish. I just speak it very badly. Perhaps I would like to marry you. But I want to do to a church ...