Wednesday, December 5, 2018

My take on the 5th episode of the HBO series My Brilliant Friend

Elena and Lila’s lives continue to diverge. Elena is venturing out into the wider world while Lila becomes increasingly enmeshed in the world of the neighborhood. Lila’s brother Rino was humiliated by his lack of money and desperate to become economically successful. Consumed by envy of the Solaras, lords of the neighborhood who disrespected him, Rino became obsessed with the idea of becoming rich by opening a factory to make the shoes Lila had designed. When his father rejected the idea, Rino went on a rampage, frightening his mother, other family members and the neighbors. He overturned furniture, broke plates, and swore he would kill himself rather than work in his father’s shoe shop for a pittance.

Rino’s response to dashed dreams of upward mobility and to class-based insult was to resort to physical violence. For women, poverty may have severely limited their options but did not diminish their sense of themselves as women; for men, poverty threatened their very identity as men. Rino’s anger and insecurity leads him to attack a young man from one of the wealthy Neapolitan neighborhoods, leading to a vicious beating by the young man’s friends armed with sticks, and then rescued by the Solaras armed with iron bars.

Both Lila and Rino were trapped by violence and poverty, but Lila was also facing the threat of marriage to Marcello Solara, scion of the neighborhood’s organized crime family. Her parents saw this marriage as way of improving the economic prospects of the Cerullo family and her father threatened dire consequeences if she refused Marcello.

I found the film version of an increasingly desperate Lila resisting Marcello’s advances more powerful than the corresponding section in the book, where everything we see of Lila is refracted through Elena’s memory--her struggle to understand her friendship with Lila and the conflicting emotions she experiences, deep attachment laced with rivalry and jealousy. Although the voiceover from time to time reminds us we are witnessing the recollections of a mature woman, for the most part in the film we see Lila as a character in her own right, with a greater force and immediacy than in the novel.

In response to a Guardian interviewer who asked Ferrante if she would ever be tempted to let Lila tell her own story, Ferrante insisted that the Quartet “can only be Elena’s tale: outside that tale [Lila] would probably be unable to define herself.” In the film Lila does exist outside Elena’s tale and in Gaia Girace’s haunting performance dominates the film.

Dora Romano’s Maestra Oliviera also exists outside Elena’s tale and emerges as a far more interesting character than Elena perceives. So the bottom-line: the book is not better than the film—nor vice-versa. Each version provides different pleasures and insights.

1 comment:

  1. Elegance, utility, and unparalleled craftsmanship converge in the lv neverfull black , an emblem of enduring style that transcends seasons and trends. This iconic tote is a testament to Louis Vuitton's dedication to crafting not just fashion, but functional art that elevates every facet of life.