Elena Nicolaou – Nov 14, 2018
Elena Ferrante’s four-book series begin when Elena Greco, a woman in her 60s, receives a call that her old friend, Lina Cerullo, has suddenly disappeared. Elena doesn’t seem terribly surprised. This revelation prompts Elena to write the long story of their friendship, beginning with the events depicted in My Brilliant Friend. In that first novel, Lina and Elena meet as elementary schoolers in a post-World War II Naples community set on dimming their fire and eventually marrying them off. The next books — The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child — track the rest of their lives. The elderly Elena tries to parse her younger self’s motivations and dreams, and does the same for Lina.
Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels are beloved for their crisp depiction of women’s inner lives. However, the HBO adaptation was directed by a man — a man who came with the Ferrante stamp of approval. Saverio Costanzo is a Roman director most famous for his 2014 movie Hungry Hearts, which starred Adam Driver.
Costanzo’s relationship with Ferrante goes back to 2007, back when he was a young director looking to adapt her novella The Lost Daughter. Despite being dissatisfied with the past two adaptations of her novellas, Ferrante agreed that Costanzo could have rights to The Lost Daughter for six months. But Costanzo couldn’t make the script work. After six months of laboring, he renounced the rights. Ferrante was out of touch for the next nine years, while Costanzo’s career grew.
Then, in 2016, Costanzo got an unexpected call saying Ferrante had put his name forward to direct the TV adaptation of her Neapolitan Novels. A few weeks later, producers called to say he got the job, one to which he had never applied. Though Costanzo spoke of his initial hesitations to the New York Times, he decided he couldn’t pass up a second chance to adapt Ferrante’s work.