I’m nearly at the end of watching HBO’s My Brilliant Friend, the recently aired adaptation of the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan Novels. I’ve now read all for novels, though I’ve only reviewed the first, My Brilliant Friend. The books were quite brilliant and the new HBO film series builds on that. I’ll gave more to say on that another day — because, my god, there is so much to say — but for now I wanted to pass along the thoughts of Rhiannon Cosslett, writing in The Guardian. Her analysis of females portrayed in film brings out the richness of the new HBO film series (and by extension the novels):
what struck me most about the shifting of the story into a different medium is the time given to the two main – female – characters, and how revolutionary it still feels to see female friendship explored onscreen in this way. If the portrayal of this friendship was revelatory in the novel, with all that form’s facility for introspection, then on screen it is even more so. It goes without saying that it takes the Bechdel test and turns it into ragù.
Cosslett goes on to summarize and comment on the portrayal of women in film — an excellent analysis — then she comes back around to the brilliance of My Brilliant Friend:
“So it feels incredible, really, to watch My Brilliant Friend and see such a large amount of screen time given to girls talking to one another about Latin and periods and books. The relationship Lenù and Lila have with each other, and not to the men in the story, is the central focus – and that relationship is complicated and fraught and competitive, as well as being intimate and passionate and educative. It has, in short, all the nuances of the friendships that women ourselves know to be such crucial forces in the fabrics of our lives – the ups and downs and ins and outs by which so many men claim to be baffled. Of course they are, because so much of the dynamic can be instinctive and unspoken, not to mention further complicated by existing in a man’s world, as Ferrante so powerfully depicts.”