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.