Lone Scherfig

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Lone Scherfig
Born (1959-05-02) 2 May 1959 (age 63)
Occupation(s)Film director, screenwriter

Lone Scherfig (Danish: [ˈloːnə ˈɕɛɐ̯fi]; born 2 May 1959) is a Danish film director and screenwriter. She has been involved with the Dogme 95 film movement. Scherfig's movies are generally romantic comedies, including her film One Day (2011), based on the David Nicholls's novel of the same name.[1][2]

Scherfig has come to be recognized as a significant talent in the film industry for her experimentation with creative constraints and astute attention to detail.[3][4]

She has received a BAFTA nomination,[5][6] a FIPRESCI Award, a Jury Prize at Berlin International Film Festival, and numerous other awards and nominations. Movies she has directed have received BAFTA and Oscar nominations, and numerous other awards and nominations.[7][8]


1980s – 1990s: Early beginnings[edit]

Scherfig graduated from the National Film School of Denmark in 1984.[9] She initially worked in the advertising business and won awards (including the Lion d'Argent) at the Cannes International Advertising Film Festival.

She began her career as a director with the television film Margrethes elsker in 1985. Her directorial debut in film came with Kaj's fodselsdag. The film was critically successful and garnered her the Grand Jury prize and the Club Espace Award at the Rouen Nordic FIlm Festival. For a period of time following such success, Scherfig wrote and directed a few short films, and worked with both radio shows and the stage.

She directed the film Når mor kommer hjem (1998), which received the Grand Prix at the Montreal Film Festival and the Cinekid Award in Amsterdam.

2000s: International breakthrough, Italian for Beginners[edit]

Scherfig made her international breakthrough with the film Italian for Beginners (2000), which was critically acclaimed and won several awards, including the Jury Grand Prix Silver Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival.[10] Hailed as a feel-good movie, the film is preoccupied with themes of hope, happiness, and choice. It is credited as the most profitable Scandinavian film to date.[11]

Following the creative constraints of the Dogme 95 movement, Scherfig set the film almost entirely on location within a small space, used sound found only at the source, and shot on video. The film involves several characters and their various romantic or other interactions that unfold across this limited setting. As opposed to many other Dogme 95 films, Scherfig's is rather upbeat and comedic. It has been noted for its rather amusing tone.[12]

Following Italian for Beginners, Scherfig made the deadpan comedy Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, released in 2002. This film, not considered a part of the Dogme 95 canon, is a touching movie centered on a suicidal man who is constantly saved and cared for by his brother. Noted by critics to be a surprisingly lighthearted affair, the movie was praised for Scherfig's ability to craft deep and interesting characters.[3] Critic A.O. Scott mused that the film's tone "ranges from stoic to diffident to quizzical, at least on the surface. But there is an undercurrent of deep and complicated feeling beneath the Scottish reserve; it is signalled by the music, and by Ms. Scherfig's exquisite sense of nuance."[13] Scherfig worked closely with the prolific writer Anders Thomas Jensen in developing a screenplay for this film. She aligned her work with the production companies Sigma Films and Zentropa. Although well received, Wilbur was not as commercially successful as Italian for Beginners. It served as a catalyst for her Dogme 95 related project called the Advance Party, in which both Scherfig and Jensen helped write characters for Lars Von Trier.[4]

Scherfig followed this by writing and directing another character-focused film: Just Like Home, released in 2007. In this comedic endeavour, set in a little town, several characters unite to discover who could be causing commotion in the streets at night. The movie explores the various residents of the town and their interactions with each other. Claiming constraints related to the Dogme 95, Scherfig said that the film was written piece by piece every day that it was shot.[14] She has said the story is "about trust...the fundamental belief that people you hardly know will want the best for you."[15] While receiving little commercial or critical spotlight, the film served as a bridge between Scherfig's earlier experiments and her more American successes.

2010s: Further success, An Education[edit]

In 2009, An Education, Scherfig's most critically lauded film, was released. With a screenplay written by esteemed British fiction author Nick Hornby, the movie was based on journalist Lynn Barber's experiences as a teenager in post-war Britain. The film's story follows 16-year-old Jenny (played by Carey Mulligan) as she is picked up one rainy night by David (played by Peter Sarsgaard), and brought into the bustling and exciting adult London society. Centered on this tender and somewhat morally ambiguous romantic relationship between David and Jenny, the movie was hailed as being subtle and deliberate in its pacing and tone.[16] Many reviewers noted the exceptional performance of Carey Mulligan as the protagonist.[17] She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance; the film was nominated for Best Picture and Nick Hornby (for Adapted Screenplay).

On making the film, Scherfig has talked about her focus on the theme of being an American teenager examined throughout the story, saying,

"my guess is about America is that it’s this combination of innocence and freedom that attracts you. Here in Denmark, as well, it was more liberated than it is now, and was definitely more innocent and less dangerous. I mean, when I was a teenager, the world was a lot safer than it is now for my daughter as a teenager, which meant that I could have a lot more fun. It wasn’t risky the way it is now."[18]

She has also discussed the pleasures of working in a more collaborative spirit for this movie, commenting that the movie was "the same piece that we [were] all working on, and that was really important to me as a director that everyone was making the same film, that everyone contributed to the package and tried to strengthen it and get as many facets as possible but not be over-inventive, [to] just tell the story as well as we possibly could."[18] Coming off the success of An Education, Scherfig had many opportunities to develop a more expansive American career in filmmaking.

Scherfig's next film, titled One Day and released in 2011, follows the lives of two romantically engaged individuals as they intersect one day each year. Based on a novel by David Nicholls and adapted by him as a screenplay, the movie marks a more obvious turning point for Scherfig's career in reaching a somewhat larger audience than any of her previous films. The plot and story of the movie has been characterized as somewhat simple and predictable, but critics noted that Scherfig gave the dialogue and tone of the film a distinct freshness.[19] The reputations of leading actors Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess both helped attract a wider audience.

Scherfig had declared her interest in working with Hathaway on this project. She also commented on the difficulties of working with someone else's screenplay, saying in an interview that:

It’s so much easier to work with something you’ve written, because you can cut things or add things on the spot. You can be much more at home and at ease with what you do. You don’t feel unfaithful to the writer because there is no writer. Most of the other films I’ve done I’ve co-written, and I prefer it. But having said that, when you work with someone else’s characters, you get a lot of gifts. You get an entire world, you get to portray people that you couldn’t have made up, and entire worlds that are fascinating because they are not yours. It’s much harder, I really think it’s much harder [20]

The film was a moderate success commercially, grossing over $56 million worldwide on a $15 million budget. It furthered Scherfig's career and her capacity to reach a broader audience.

Scherfig worked as a consultant writer for the Danish film Alting. She has worked on other projects (such as Red Road and Donkeys) in helping write and develop characters. Her most recent work is The Riot Club, based on the stage play Posh by Laura Wade, released in 2014. The film follows two first-year students amongst the privileged elite of Oxford University, determined to join the infamous Riot Club, where reputations can be made or destroyed over the course of a single evening. Universal Pictures distributed the film in the UK and Ireland.[21]


Year Title Role Notes
1985 Margrethes elsker Director Television film
1986 Flamberede hjerter Assistant Director
1989 A World of Difference Script Supervisor
1990 Kaj's fødselsdag Director
1993 Den gode lykke Director Television film
1994 Flemming og Berit Director 6 episodes
1997 Taxa Director Television series (unknown episodes)
Writer 2 episodes
1998 Når mor kommer hjem Writer, director
2000 Morten Korch – Ved stillebækken Writer, director 11 episodes
Italian for Beginners Writer, director [22]
2002 Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself Writer, director [23][24][25]
2005 Krøniken Director 1 episode
2006 Red Road Characters [26]
2007 Just Like Home Writer, director
2009 An Education Director Film Nominated for

3 Oscar Awards [7] and 8 BAFTA Awards [8][27][28][29][30][31][32]

Donkeys Characters
2011 One Day Director [33][34][35][36][37][38]
2012 Alting Writer, consultant writer
2014 The Riot Club Director [39]
2015 The Astronaut Wives Club Director, executive producer 2 episodes
2016 Their Finest Director [40][41][42][43][44][45]
2019 The Kindness of Strangers Writer, Director [46]
2023 The Movie Teller Director [47][48]
2023 The Shift Creator, Main Author TV Series [49][50]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards and Nominations for Movies Directed by Lone Scherfig[edit]

Kaj's fodselsdag won both the Club Espace Award and the Grand Jury Prize at the Rouen Nordic Film Festival in 1991. Nar mor kommer hjem won the Cinekid Film Award in 1998.

At the Berlin International Film Festival, Italian for Beginners won the FIPRESCI Prize, the Prize of Ecumenical Jury, the Reader Jury of the "Berliner Morgenpost," and the Silver Berlin Bear, and was nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear. It was also nominated for a Bodil (as was Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself and An Education). Italian for Beginners was nominated at the Chicago International Film Festival, the European Film Awards, the Goya Awards, and picked up awards at Bordeaux International Festival of Women in Cinema, the Festróia-Tróia International Film Festival, the Flaiano Film Festival, the Hamptons International Film Festival, the Paris Film Festival, the Robert Festival, the Valladolid Film Festival, and the Warsaw International Film Festival.

Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself garnered nominations from the British Independent Film Awards, the Chlotudis Awards, the Robert Festival, the Valladolid Film Festival, and came in second place at the Emden International Film Festival. It took home awards at the Festróia-Tróia International Film Festival, the Hamptons International Film Festival, the Skip City International D-Cinema Festival, the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, and the Victoria Independent Film & Video Festival in Canada.

Although Just Like Home was shunned by critics, Scherfig's fourth film was offered the most recognition. An Education was nominated at the BAFTA Awards, the British Independent Film Awards, the European Film Awards, the Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards, the Satellite Awards, and the Academy Awards. It won various awards at the Chicago International Film Festival, the Independent Spirit Awards, the Mill Valley Film Festival, the Robert Festival, and the Sundance Film Festival.

Awards and Nominations for Lone Scherfig[edit]

Year Title Award Work Result Notes
2010 British Academy

Film Awards (BAFTA)

Best Director An Education Nominated [51]
2001 Berlin International Film Festival Silver Berlin Bear Italian for Beginners Won [52]
Golden Berlin Bear Nominated
2001 International Federation of Film Critics FIPRESCI Award Won


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  4. ^ a b Hjort, Mette; Jorholt, Eva; Redvall, Eva Novrup (2010). The Danish Directors 2: Dialogues on the New Danish Fiction Cinema. Bristol: Intellect Books. ISBN 978-1-84150-271-7. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
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  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (1 February 2001). "Italian For Beginners". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
  13. ^ Scott, A. O. (12 March 2004). "Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
  14. ^ "Just Like Home (2008), Lone Scherfig, Lars Kaalund, Bodil Jorgensen, DVD review". Combustible Celluloid. 26 April 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
  15. ^ "Just Like Home". San Francisco International Film Festival. 8 May 2008. Archived from the original on 11 September 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
  16. ^ "An Education". Rogerebert.com. 21 October 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
  17. ^ "An Education: Film Review". Slant Magazine. 7 October 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
  18. ^ a b Harper, Rebecca (17 November 2009). "Exclusive Interview: Director Lone Scherfig, "An Education"". Hulu.com. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
  19. ^ Ebert, Roger (17 August 2011). "One Day". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
  20. ^ "'One Day' interview with director Lone Scherfig". The Scorecard Review. 26 August 2011. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  21. ^ "Universal takes UK, Irish rights to Lone Scherfig's Posh". Screendaily. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  22. ^ "FILM REVIEW; Finding a Spark for a Guy in Need of One". The New York Times. 2002-01-18. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  23. ^ Nesselson, Lisa (2003-01-31). "Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself". Variety. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  24. ^ "Suicide is a little too painless in this whimsical 'Wilbur' - The Boston Globe". archive.boston.com. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  25. ^ Scott, A. O. (2004-03-12). "FILM REVIEW; Eager to Join Mom and Dad In the Land Six Feet Under". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  26. ^ "In gritty 'Red Road,' she's the watcher and he's being watched - The Boston Globe". archive.boston.com. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
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  28. ^ O'Hehir, Andrew (2009-10-08). "The British indie explosion". Salon. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  29. ^ "Charmed school". Los Angeles Times. 2009-10-09. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  30. ^ Scott, A. O. (2009-10-08). "Beware of Strangers Bearing Champagne". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  31. ^ Edelstein, David. "An Education - The Yes Men Fix the World - The Damned United -- New York Magazine Movie Review - Nymag". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  32. ^ "Naughty Boys". The New Yorker. 2009-10-12. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
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  34. ^ Chang, Justin (2011-08-17). "One Day". Variety. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  35. ^ Scott, A.O. (2011-08-18). "Emma and Dex and July 15". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  36. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (August 21, 2011). "One Day". EW.com. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  37. ^ "Devotions". The New Yorker. 2011-08-22. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  38. ^ Wexler, Sarah. "One Day Director Lone Scherfig on the Art of the British Accent, Shock Endings, and Casting Anne Hathaway". Vulture. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  39. ^ Holden, Stephen (2015-03-27). "Review: In 'The Riot Club,' an Elite British Dining Club Excels in Debauchery". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  40. ^ Keough, Peter (April 13, 2017). "A salute to 'Their Finest'". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
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  42. ^ "Their Finest review - Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy struggle with a duff script in wartime drama". the Guardian. 2016-09-13. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  43. ^ "Review: The charm — and bite — of 'Their Finest,' a seamless blend of comedy and drama". Los Angeles Times. 2017-04-07. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  44. ^ Dargis, Manohla (2017-04-06). "Review: Carrying On and Making Movies in 'Their Finest'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  45. ^ Barker, Andrew (2016-09-12). "Toronto Film Review: 'Their Finest'". Variety. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  46. ^ Roxborough, Scott (2019-02-06). "Lone Scherfig on the Timely Themes of 'The Kindness of Strangers'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  47. ^ Yossman, K. J. (2022-01-17). "Daniel Brühl Boards Lone Scherfig's 'The Movie Teller' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  48. ^ Ritman, Alex (2021-11-01). "AFM: Berenice Bejo to Star in Lone Scherfig's Adaptation of 'The Movie Teller'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  49. ^ Wise, Damon (2022-02-13). "Berlin Review: Lone Scherfig's 'The Shift'". Deadline. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  50. ^ Keslassy, Elsa (2021-06-17). "'An Education' Director Lone Scherfig Set to Showrun 'The Shift' for TV2, Beta Film (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
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  52. ^ "Italiensk for begyndere | Italian For Beginners | Italienisch für Anfänger - Competition 2001". www.berlinale.de. Retrieved 2022-12-27.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hjort, Mette. Lone Scherfig's Italian for Beginners. University of Washington Press: Seattle. 2010.
  • Hjort, Mette and Eva Jorholt and Eva Novrup Redvall. The Danish Directors 2: Dialogues on the New Danish Fiction Cinema, Volume 2. Intellect Books: Chicago. 2010. .
  • Hjort, Mette. "Affinitive and Milieu-Building Transnationalism: The Advance Party Initiative." Cinema at the Periphery. Wayne State University Press: Detroit. 2010.
  • Kelly, Richard. The Name of This Book is Dogme 95. Faber & Faber. 2000.

External links[edit]