Venice: ‘My Brilliant Friend’ Director Saverio Costanzo Thanks Author Elena Ferrante for Making His Job Easy

Saverio Costanzo - H Getty 2018
Andreas Rentz/gettyimages

The director says that the appeal of the books comes from realizing what we no longer have as a society.

The first two episodes of My Brilliant Friend, the first adaptation of The Neapolitan Novels will premiere in Venice on Sunday. The four volumes from author Elena Ferrante have been translated into 42 languages and have sold more than 5.5 million copies.

The series looks at the friendship of two girls growing into women over the course of their lives, with the first book taking place in 1950s Naples. At a press conference for the premiere, director Saverio Costanzo (Hungry Hearts) expressed his gratitude to Ferrante for writing something that so easily translated to the big screen, and noted that indeed the script was written more as a film than as a TV show.

“My involvement in this adventure is thanks to Elena Ferrante, who suggested my name to the producers,” said Costanzo. “I obviously had read the trilogy. I never would have thought I could have done this, to put it into a series. But when I was asked to do it I didn’t hesitate.”

“The fact that this was a very wide project never scared me at all,” he said. “I had this very small nucleus that I had to safeguard. I knew that would be my compass that would help me navigate through the various peripheral aspects. So I’d like to thank her for this.”

Costanzo also touched on the wide appeal of the books when asked if he hopes the series will have the same success. “I ask myself what is the modernity of this story, why does it touch us so much in modern society? It is truly political work," he said.

“Having such a consistent matrix to start with, it was very easy to know where to go," Costanzo said of the novels." Where it didn’t give me a description I was able to spiritually on an unconscious level, fill in the gaps.” he said.

The director said he also hopes that viewers don’t make comparisons between the books and the series, but “find what they find when they had put down the books.”

Ferrante, who lives and works under a pseudonym, was involved with the project via email.

“She was very, very close to the project. Right from the beginning we felt that she was on board. I think in the various mails she had she sort of mellowed,” said co-screenwriter Francesco Piccolo. “She really trusted Saverio.”

“It was very moving to receive the mails with these notes almost as if we were getting a school report. She was very precise with these notes,” said co-screenwriter Laura Paolucci.

My Brilliant Friend premieres November on HBO.