Elena Ferrante, the illuminated pen that inspired “The Dark Daughter,” the Netflix blockbuster film

With resources such as the recurring and metaphorical shot of a peeled orange in the form of a serpentine, short dialogues traced from the novel to preserve its potential but also with certain freedoms with respect to the printed letter to guarantee audiovisual tension, The dark daughter (The Lost Daughter), the directorial debut of actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, is an adaptation to the big screen of one of the novels by the mysterious writer Elena Ferrante and became one of the most viewed on Netflix thanks to algorithms and recommendations that They work these days on social networks and by word of mouth.

The dark daughter recreates a woman’s trip to a beach in Greece (Italy in the novel), where her meeting with a young mother triggers memories and feelings of her years in the care of her two young daughters and the drastic decision to abandon them; live the summer present marked by the pain and uncertainties of the past.

The dark daughter, the original title in Italian, is the third novel in the series of texts republished in 2011 as Chronicles of heartbreak, and Gyllenhaal not only had Ferrante’s approval to undertake the film adaptation but also received some directions and requests from the author.

The contact between the two was by email and the author insisted that the actress not only direct the film but also take risks and put her mark on the original material. He also clarified that this proposal would never have been made to a male director.

“The contract stipulated that I had to be the director or the contract would be void. That gesture touched me a lot and I suggested that he read the script once it was finished, “Gyllenhaal told the film’s launch press conference about how the adaptation process was.

After reading the script, Ferrante, author of The wonderful friend, A bad name, The debts of the body and The lost girl, He responded with few comments and with a symbolic gesture of support: his approval for the film to modify details of the end of the story.

Beyond the correspondences between the original text and the film, there is harmony between the two formats. The two versions account for the chiaroscuro of motherhood, the arduous and non-transferable care work in early childhood and the problematization of mothers’ desire and professional life.

“How stupid to think that one can confess to one’s children before they are at least fifty years old. Pretend to be seen by them as a person and not as a function. Say: «I am your story, you came out of me, listen to me because I could serve you» ”, assumes the protagonist in Ferrante’s novel and calls herself“ a denatured mother ”.

“I read the novel many years ago. And the first feeling was that the protagonist was really screwed. But later I realized that I felt identified. So, was it me who was screwed or maybe there was an experience there that many readers could share? An experience that almost no one talks about: the female experience in the world, a hidden truth about which it should be possible to speak out loud ”, Gyllenhaal told about what seduced her from the text.

It was, more precisely, the days when the mother decided to abandon her daughters that asked her to think about an adaptation to the cinema. “He was like someone who is conquering his existence and feels a lot of things at the same time, among them an unbearable emptiness. I realized that I was not capable of creating anything of my own that could be compared to them “, says the protagonist of The dark daughter.

“It’s a story about a lot of those things that women have collectively decided to remain silent about,” Gyllenhaal reflected on that stretch of history. She also said that the possibility of filming the film generated a very specific illusion: to get out of the solitary experience of reading and take it to the big screen so that she could expose the subject to family discussion, among friends or in the framework of the couple.

The attitude that Ferrante assumed towards Gyllenhaal’s adaptation has a correlation in what he maintains about the role of women in the different disciplines. In an article he wrote for The New York Times In 2020, the author highlighted the importance of women giving their stories a voice: “We women have been pushed into the background, towards submission, even when it comes to our literary work. The female story, told more and more skillfully, more and more widespread and without complexes, is what must now assume power ”.

Perhaps this defense of the role of women in literature and of the need for this agenda to be present with its own decision to hide behind a pseudonym is paradoxical. Ferrante, on the other hand, believes that it is precisely this distancing that allows him to sustain the idea of ​​authorship and the value of the work over that of the whims of the publishing industry.

The crusher, a book published in 2018, compiles the interviews that Ferrante gave in recent years and several of the emails he has sent to his editors. In interviews, the issue of identity is always present. The author argues that at first it was mere shyness, but that from the success of her texts she decided that they should speak for themselves and not be contaminated by the presence of the author. He alludes to his desire for intangibility, criticizes the media and publishers for their desire to pretend that the author becomes a commodity and attacks those mediocre books by authors who, due to their fame, deserve more attention than the quality books of those they don’t have it.

In one of the articles, “Women who write”, Ferrante expresses: “In the imaginary, the courage to travel the world fighting with words and actions continues to be a matter for male intellectuals. By a series of conditioned reflections of culture, women are still assigned the balcony from which they contemplate the life that passes and then tell it with unfailingly tremulous words ”.

“Reading and writing has always been a way of appeasing me”, confesses the protagonist of The dark daughter, in a line that may well be the point of confluence with Ferrante, Gyllenhaal and the reader-viewer of this story.

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