From Fellini to Ferrante: the cinematic vision of My Brilliant Friend

The television adaptation Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend is a reminder of Italy’s strong tradition in the coming-of-age genre, from Life Is Beautiful to Cinema Paradiso

The first episode of My Brilliant Friend is likely to cause both great excitement and deep anxiety. Excitement because Ferrante is a writer with an almost evangelical following. Her quartet of “Neapolitan novels” have sold close to a million copies in the UK, and 1.8m in Italy. When readers finish one book, they tend to devour all four, mesmerised by the taut depiction of a poor suburb and its characters over the course of many decades. But that invented world of a few families living cheek-by-jowl in postwar Italy is both exotically foreign and yet - with its universal themes of poverty, violence, alliances and aspiration – astonishingly familiar. The anxiety arises because the adaptation might erase not only how we’ve imagined the characters,
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