Dispatches from the Venice Film Festival: L’Amica Geniale (My Brilliant Friend)
The “Ferrante Fever” — that erupted with the international bestseller My Brilliant Friend (L’Amica Geniale) written by Elena Ferrante (and her following publications that compose the tetralogy) — has found a cinematic adaptation with an HBO-RAI Fiction and TIMVISION series, produced by Lorenzo Mieli and Mario Gianani for Wildside, and by Domenico Procacci for Fandango, in co-production with Umedia.
For those who still have not read the books, the story follows the stream of consciousness of Elena Greco, an elderly woman living in a house crammed with books, who starts writing her own story, and that of her childhood chum, Lila. Elena tells the tale of their friendship, that began at school in the 1950s. Set in a dangerous but fascinating Naples, it is just the start of a story spanning sixty years of life. A tale that attempts to unveil the mystery of Lila, Elena’s brilliant friend
Saverio Costanzo — whose film Hungry Hearts was selected to compete for the Golden Lion at the 71st Venice International Film Festival — was given the challenging task to direct the series, where the first two episodes premiered at the 75th Venice Film Festival. His name was suggested by the very author of L’Amica Geniale as he explained: “Elena Ferrante recommended my name, and as a fond reader of her books I was thrilled when I got the news from the publishing company.”
Although some claim that Elena Ferrante is Anita Raja — a translator who lives in Rome with her husband, the Neapolitan writer Domenico Starnone — the mystery regarding the identity of the author continues and the secret has been kept by the entire film production. “Elena Ferrante has been very close to the project, although we can’t reveal who she is,” said Francesco Piccolo one of the screenwriters along with director Saverio Costanzo, Laura Paolucci and of course the author of the book.
The screenplay has beautifully adapted every nuance of Naples in the fifties, each face of the wretched characters and the very spirit of this tale about friendship. Every shot, made director Costanzo, vividly echoes the words by Elena Ferrante. “I have tried to tell the story that follows the turns and movements of the characters. An adaptation that aims to present the viewers with the great scenes of Elena Ferrante’s novel on which the series is based. The acting, always poised, looks for a density and a fullness animated by the contradictory streams of the characters. The voice that tells the story as it would be the drafting of a book, a first person that follows the viewer inside the most unspeakable thoughts of the protagonists,” said Costanzo.
The young actresses were truly “Brilliant” (pun intended) in bringing to life the young Lila and Elena, as well as having the physique du role described so meticulously in the book. Both girls were very grateful to the director for guiding them throughout this cinematic adventure. Ludovica Nasti playing Lila said: “We went on set with our personality and then Saverio helped us and always told us to be ourselves,” and Elisa Del Genio in the role of Elena added: “Saverio was of great support, and also our coach Antonio, and I was taught Neapolitan because I did not know the dialect.”
Over 150 actors and 5,000 extras were involved in this production. Recreating the Neapolitan neighborhood was described as a herculean task, since it measured 20 thousand square meters, with 14 buildings that were erected from scratch, along with 5 sets of interiors, a church and a tunnel. The punctilious work in the making of the film, truly paid off.