Thursday, May 30 2024

Once the first and extraordinarily successful season is over, everything is
ready for the sequel to My brilliant friend, the
TV series based on the novel of the same title by Elena Ferrante, the
world-famous Italian writer.

The story tells of the friendship between two girls, first teenagers and
later on women who live in Naples in the 1950s, in a suburb that serves as
a backdrop and where, among contradictions, paradoxes and dangers, emerge
more clearly a social class looking for affirmation, together with the
desire for redemption and emancipation. Elena Greco and Raffaella Cerullo
are the protagonists of a beautiful and dramatic story.

The book can be classified as a novel of “growing up”. In fact, the events
follow the growth of the two girls who live difficulties and successes, two
friends going through the restlessness of their own anguish and loneliness
up to reaching the maturity. In My brilliant friend we find Naples and the
postwar period in a popular and poor neighborhood, where the two girls
stand out for their capabilities and brilliance. Lenù (Elena) and Lila
(Raffaella) have two different personalities, which are often opposite, but
they are united by a great friendship, built on affection, but also on
competition and infidelity. It’s a bond that marks the life of both, but
struggles to impose itself as a deep feeling.

Story of feelings, difficulties and complex relationships

The first scene of the film, as well as the one in the book, opens with a
phone call in the night. It is dark and Elena answers knowing that it’s
Rino, Lila’s son, worried about his mother’s disappearance. Lila has
removed all traces of herself in the house. But she certainly cannot erase
the memory of a life spent together. This memory is still alive in the mind
of her friend, who is now an elderly lady and who, almost as in a last
challenge, begins to write “every detail of our story that has been
engraved in my mind”.

Everything starts from a memory: the book, and also the series, under the
direction of Saverio Costanzo and with the collaboration, among the
writers, of Ferrante herself. The sepia-coloured images make us think of
the old photos, those to be found in our grandmother’s trunk. The scenes
recall the events narrated by Elena, who begins to tell her story from the
moment they met and continues to describe their lives as children and
adolescents in the first book of the tetralogy, entitled “My brilliant
friend”, to continue in “The story of a New Name”, in “Those Who Leave and
Those Who Stay” and, finally, in “The Story of the Lost Child”.

The memories cannot be erased, they remain, perhaps they become a little
yellowish, they turn sepia; the events to which they refer were used to
draw life, which in the case of My brilliant friend is full of so many pains and
difficulties, complex relationships, feelings lived in a controversial way,
which do not spare even the sense of belonging.

The background of Elena’s story is a true “Neapolitanity”, with all its
more or less intrinsic contradictions, from which the protagonist distances
herself, deciding first of all to write the dialogues in Italian, except to
inform, in some cases, that certain phrases or terms have been said in
dialect. The Neapolitan remains in the background of the book, it is used
to express extreme triviality and Lenù and Lila avoid it to feel
emancipated from those places, from those circumstances and from a
condition that somehow oppresses them. And yet it is within them; in fact
the director, Saverio Costanzo, wanted all the dialogues in the film to be
in dialect, subtitled, precisely to give authenticity and realism to the
scenes. Where the written word in the novel recalls events and situations,
in the film it is the word in dialect that expresses, revealing its depth,
the identity of the characters and also of the places.

An international product for 56 countries

It was therefore a completely thriving experiment, according to the success
of the TV series produced by Fandango-Wildside, in collaboration with Rai
Fiction, TimVision, Hbo Entertainment and Umedia, which has had a very good
reception all over the world, probably also for this character of
authenticity and realism. The series has been aired in 56 countries around
the world, including Canal+ for France and French-speaking Africa, Sky
Atlantic for the UK, HBO Europe for Spain, Scandinavia and much of Eastern
Europe, VRT for Belgium, and Digiturk for Turkey. In the US has achieved a
considerable success, both by the public and by the critics. In addition,
in the near future, it should also arrive to China thanks to an agreement
with the giant of streaming IQIYI.

The second series starts from where the first one finished, that is from
the wedding of Lila and Stefano, and is based on the second novel of the
tetralogy, “The story of a New Name”, which alludes, in fact, to the new
status of Lila, who, as a married woman, assumes her husband’s surname. The
novel, from the very beginning, refers to the bond that will eventually
oppress Lila, who discovers the violence of her husband, and understands
that the new surname is a burden too heavy to bear. In fact, in the story,
all the surnames are seen as overwhelming burdens. The “family name”, that
is the fact of belonging to a particular family, in the small Neapolitan
suburb in which the story is set, is considered a trait from which to stand
out, in search of freedom and emancipation. Often times that “family name”
is even almost an enemy to be defeated, The family, in fact, in the story,
is not a space for sharing affections, relationships, and experience, but
rather a place of conflict, misunderstanding, or even oppression and
violence. And this applies somehow to all the characters, albeit in
different ways.

The novel is the story of Elena, Lenù and Raffaella, Lila; it is the story
of a memory that surprises and captures for its sharpness. A clear memory,
but of a frayed, ‘bewildered’ story, to take up an expression used several
times by Ferrante. Not even friendship and intelligence can define the
contours of an existence that, for both protagonists as well as for many
other characters, remains until the end without those boundaries which, far
from defining the limits of a regular topos, indicate, rather, the
precincts of a mature and happy personality.

My brilliant friend
tells us about social redemption through culture (especially for Elena) and
intelligence (especially for Lila). Both dream of their own affirmation,
which they try to pursue along different paths, but they are unable,
however, to achieve happiness. The dream shatters against the awareness
that, on the contrary, affirmation is not synonymous with happiness. At
least it is not so for the two protagonists of the story who are willing to
sacrifice everything for personal success, but who find themselves alone
with their own identity, who have lacked points of reference, sincere
affections, but who still have a great desire not to give up.

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