The Independent’s: My Brilliant Friend, episode 1, review: ‘The Dolls’ gives Elena Ferrante’s novels a faithful, cinematic treatment

HBO delivers a soaring adaptation of the Neapolitan literary phenomenon, in one of the biggest TV events of the year

On The Independent’s

Ben Kelly – Nov 20, 2018

Few books have captured the zeitgeist with such imagination as Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels.

The four novel saga is an exploration of the lives of everyday people living through turbulent decades of Italian history, following the lives of Elena and Lila, whose friendship spans from the postwar period to the present day, set against the scenic backdrop of Naples. Ferrante explores the complexities of female relationships, and the struggles of the working class. Her scope is sweeping, and her pages overflow with so many characters that at the start of each book she provides a dramatis personae.

The new HBO adaptation, airing on Sky Atlantic on the UK, has done justice to her magnum opus, with a faithful, cinematic treatment of the boisterous society she portrays. It is a fitting tribute to Ferrante, who in the past decade has grown from little known, word-of-mouth Italian novelist, to international literary phenomenon.

This is partly down to her writing. But intrigue has also built around her anonymity. Ferrante’s aversion to publicity and any public appearances means her very identity is almost entirely unknown.Now, fans and newcomers alike have been graced with this adaptation, diligently directed by Saverio Costanzo. The opening scene shows a modern day, aged Elena learning that Lila has gone missing, and so she begins to write the story of their friendship from the beginning.

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