Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig is part of the Dogme 95 film movement, which espouses a form of cinéma vérité that eschews special effects and glitzy treatment of its subjects. Cameras are handheld; films are shot on location with no extraneous props or atmospheric music. This is all part of the group's renowned, so-called "Vow of Chastity."
Employing the principles of Dogme 95, Scherfig made Italian for Beginners in 2001. The film won the Silver Bear juried prize at the Berlin Film Festival, and has enjoyed accolades from audiences in Europe and America, where the director made a special version minus the Danish inside jokes. The romantic comedy -- a new direction for the normally serious Dogme 95 -- centers around a group of disparate people in Copenhagen, who meet to learn the Italian language. Relationships form; romances blossom; the story unfolds with ever increasing complications and convolutions, hinting at the complexities of love. The love angle may reflect a female sensibility, something that Scherfig brings to the otherwise all-male Dogme 95 group, who invited her to join them. She has been quoted as saying that since she has made soap operas for television, she knew how to avoid crossing that line between tragi-comic and maudlin when writing the script for the film. Indeed, while the movie touches upon many serious subjects such as loss through suicide and divorce, it has a feel-good, light quality about it.
Italian for Beginners, shot on a budget of less than a million dollars using local settings, has brought the former Danish Film School teacher recognition from prestigious film festivals and Hollywood alike. That positive regard eluded her while working on several previous feature films, including On Our Own, as well as some forgettable sitcoms, such as Taxa, for Danish television.
Since the success of Italian for Beginners in America, Hollywood has beckoned. So far, Scherfig has resisted Tinsel Town's siren call, preferring her quiet life and garden by the sea in Denmark with her husband and daughter.