The Times: TV pick of the week: My Brilliant Friend

On The Times

Victoria Segal – Nov 18, 2018

An Italian-language adaptation of the first book in Elena Ferrante’s much-adored series of Neapolitan novels, My Brilliant Friend focuses on the poverty-stricken and violence-blighted childhoods of Elena (Elisa Del Genio, pictured on left) and Lila (Ludovica Nasti, on right). The two brightest girls in their school, they form an alliance in the chaotic and often frightening world of 1950s Naples. The director, Saverio Costanzo, has captured all the violence and vibrancy of the girls’ neighbourhood, a place of overcrowded schools, squalling babies and packed funerals, where neighbours shout intimate conversations between balconies, women hurl pots and irons from windows in terrible outbursts of rage, and a man who has crossed a loan shark might suddenly fly through the air and slam into a wall. Under the endless bright sunlight, My Brilliant Friend feels very dark, full of ominous foreshadowing, yet the two expressive young leads shine through as they subtly weigh up a turbulent universe and their place in it.
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The Times: How Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend became a TV drama

As the international bestseller comes to Sky Atlantic, Tom Kington meets the cast on set in Italy

On The Times

 Nov 10, 2018

Working with one of the best-loved authors in the world on the TV adaptation of her intensely personal novels is not easy when you are banned from meeting her.

“It was like writing with a ghost,” says Saverio Costanzo, the director of the new, keenly awaited adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. The novel is the first of Ferrante’s four “Neapolitan” novels, which have drawn global acclaim, fuelling the guessing game over the identity of the Italian author, who writes under a pen name and clings fiercely to her privacy.

At least Costanzo got to swap emails with Ferrante — via her publisher of course — but he claims that left him none the wiser about her identity.

“I started off thinking she was a he, then I decided she was a she, then a we,” he says. “Then I decided I didn’t care.”

The Italian director is sitting at the counter of a café on a €6 million set in Caserta in Campania, where 14 blocks of a postwar Naples neighbourhood, the backdrop for My Brilliant Friend, have been faithfully recreated.

His job is to bring to the small screen one of the finest studies in female friendship, as Elena, the narrator, looks back on growing up in the neighbourhood with Lila, the incredibly smart, inscrutable, moody and proud companion she adores, emulates and resents. Continue reading