'Brilliant Friend' couldn't be done in English, says TV director

VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - The director turning Elena Ferrante’s “Neapolitan Novels” into an HBO television series said there was no way the stories could have been filmed in English or adapted to take place in America.

The 75th Venice International Film Festival - Photocall?for the film "My Brilliant Friend" - Venice, Italy, September 2, 2018 - Director Saverio Costanzo, with Elisa Del Genio, Margherita Mazzucco, Ludovica Nasti, Gaia Girace. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

The first two episodes of “My Brilliant Friend” - a co-production with Italian broadcaster RAI - screened at the Venice Film Festival this week to warm reviews.

“It’s impossible to make the adaption of ‘My Brilliant Friend’ in any other country than Italy because the language is crucial,” said Saverio Costanzo, who directed the TV version of the story of two girls growing up in Naples in the 1950s.

“In the beginning they speak just dialect and then they learn how to speak Italian properly so there is no other way to describe that story in Ohio, you cannot make it anywhere else.”

It is not only U.S. audiences that will have to read subtitles. The Italian version will also have them for some of the scenes as the Neapolitan dialect is hard to understand for anyone outside the southern port city.

Costanzo said he still did not know the novelist’s real identity. Ferrante’s decision to hide behind a pen-name and not publicly identify herself is a real-life literary mystery story that has added to the allure of her books that are best-sellers in Europe and the United States.

“I really respect the fact that she doesn’t want to put herself in front because that makes (the) professional relationship, the one we have, very clean,” Costanzo, who communicated with Ferrante via email while writing the script, said.

The Hollywood Reporter said the series had got off to an “extraordinarily promising beginning”.

“My Brilliant Friend is blissfully neither based in a gauzy nostalgia nor mired in an affected documentary-style misery porn. It simply and cleanly embraces the details of everyday life, occasionally dirty or impoverished or ominous, spiked with moments of memory-infused whimsy.”

The Venice Film Festival runs from Aug. 29 to Sept 8.

Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Andrew Heavens