The Italian production companies Wildside and Fandango have planned a 32-episode series to cover all four Neapolitan Novels, while HBO has only signed on to eight episodes so far. The project will be filmed in Italian, with English subtitles, and will likely premiere in 2018.
Considering the novels’ explosive popularity around the world, it was probably inevitable that they’d be adapted to either film or television. Still, adapting a series that is not only widely beloved, but also the center of so many fraught conversations on gender and authorship and privacy, could be a recipe for a minefield. This is also the team (HBO and Wildside) that brought us The Young Pope earlier this year, so treading lightly may not necessarily be their strong suit.
Saverio Costanzo, the Italian director who will helm the series, called the books “very literary but also very cinematographic.” Indeed, the novels have been compared to soap operas, since they feature themes of jealousy and betrayal, as well as ever-rotating romantic pairings. This is not to diminish the intellectual gravity of Ferrante’s novels, but rather to grant those traditionally marginalized and feminized forms of narrative artistic weight. The reimagined soap opera has been having a good couple years in TV, with shows like Jane The Virgin (which plays off the telenovela) and the imminent return of Twin Peaks (which David Lynch styled off American soaps).
It is also a small comfort that Ferrante herself will apparently co-write the series. If it can balance those more TV-ready themes with the novels’ nuanced explorations of Italian feminism and class struggle, it could make for some pretty groundbreaking television.