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Does HBO’s ‘My Brilliant Friend’ Capture the Elena Ferrante Feeling?

Does HBO’s ‘My Brilliant Friend’ Capture the Elena Ferrante Feeling?

I also found that the city’s dull colors and straight lines underscored the violence that appears over and over in the two episodes, each aggressive act taking place on a new stage. What did you think of the violence? Did you find it too heavy-handed?

BARONE The violence did feel heavy-handed. I reread the portions of the book that correspond to these first episodes, and Ferrante mentions beatings, however severe, only in passing. In the first episode, the attack outside church against Signor Peluso is prolonged and graphic; on the page, it doesn’t take up more than a couple of haunting sentences.

STANFORD I think the graphic violence really worked. There was something almost ethereal about that scene where he’s thrown against the wall and the girls run out of the church to see. The swelling Max Richter score, the camerawork emphasizing how little the girls are, their desire to watch this really shocking violence, it all combined to create a moment that was even more powerful — dare I say it — than in the book. I do also think the explicitness might be a symptom of how the show has to set a precedent of normalized violence quite quickly.

SAFRONOVA What I found striking — and this is very true to the books too — is how flagrant the female anger is. You see Lenù’s mom berate her father for not knowing how to beat his daughter. You see the pleased expression on Imma Solara’s face as she stands outside her family’s bar after Don Achille is murdered. And, of course, you see Melina firing off expletives at Lidia, and later throwing her pots, pans and plants out her window while wailing.

BARONE Ah yes, firing off expletives into the piazza. It’s an Italian cliché, but for a reason: The story in my immigrant family is that my great-grandmother, who stayed behind in her tiny Italian town, lived well into her 100s but died only because she fell after yelling out her kitchen window. I appreciate how often Costanzo shows people doing this; you get the impression that the background noise of vocalizing matriarchs is as constant as bird song. It’s one of the many details, like the distinct use of local dialect and not more commonly spoken Italian, that make me optimistic for how the series will build out the worlds of Lenù and Lila as they get older.

STANFORD I couldn’t get over how striking-looking the two girls are. It seems like they were both cast, in part, for their staring ability: Ludovica Nasti (who plays Lila) has these eyes like glowing orbs and Elisa del Genio (Lenù) has such long eyelashes. There are lots of lingering glances as the girls try to figure out the world around them, and the actresses were so adept at conveying complicated emotions without a word, they rendered the narration a little redundant.

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