As children, Elena Greco and Raffaella Cerullo unknowingly challenged each other with rag dolls that they dropped into the basement of a building through a small window with bars. It was the first time they felt a twisted fascination for each other that led them to feel the need to exploit their abilities and, at the same time, sculpted a strange dependency between the two that, despite the different paths that the characters travel, does not dissolve over the years.
‘The great friend’, the universe that the mysterious author wrote on paper in a series of four novels Elena Ferrantepremiered this year its third season on HBO Max. A batch of episodes that marks a new horizon for the protagonists and that highlights the magic of some complex and ambiguous characters that we could be ourselves and our friends. HBO is preparing a fourth season that will be the last.
The wonderful friend 3: the debts of the body
The book on which this new adaptation is based, ‘The debts of the body’, is also the one that openly exposes the contradictions of the characters and banishes for the reader the idea that one of the friends is good and the other, bad. The last season of ‘The Great Friend’ continues with the story of Lenù (Margherita Mazzucco) and Lila (Gaia Girace) at a very marked turning point with which the second installment closed.
While Lila, the friend who had to leave school earlier and went on to undertake her shoe designs in the family business, gets lost in the sausage factory in which he works for four pesos and even gets sick; Elena kicks off the season celebrating the good reception of his first novel —despite her impostor syndrome—, about to get married and start a new life away from the poverty and racketeering of Naples, with the impression that her studies will finally allow her to fully refine her intelligence and begin from scratch without the burden of its Neapolitan heritage.
But despite having very different lives, Lenù and Lila are unable to break the invisible thread that conditions them and anchors them to the past, causing a symbiosis between the characters with continuous exchange of roles.
What the third season of ‘The Great Friend’ reveals is that there is no polarity between them and that this strange relationship is not the typical one of two friends who love each other to the core, understand each other and see each other as pure people, but it is rather a love/hate relationship—it is conditioned by the fact of keeping secret thoughts, desires and acts, which means that in many moments ‘The stupendous friend’ reveals its characters as complete strangers. With an emotional bond, yes.
In the previous two seasons, the HBO series had played with what was previously written in the saga by Elena Ferrante, the also author of the story on which the film ‘The Dark Daughter’ is based, to separate the two friends, Lila and Lenu, in two opposing archetypes in a stereotyped way: on the one hand, a clever young woman with a certain malice who usually stirs up all of reality and then ignores it and others solve it, a character that Lila would have played to a certain extent; and on the other side, a cautious woman who treads safely and seeks to shine, even though she always has on her conscience that she is not enough and she is subordinated by the shadow of her best friend’s intellect.
This description would fit with the path traveled by Elena Greco, who is even released in one chapter by her husband, Pietro, that Lila “hates” her. Something true, on the other hand, that occurs to a certain extent as an implacable feeling towards the other and as a destructive machine for oneself. This season makes it clear that both friends they hate each other and they hate themselves for not being able to detach himself from his contradictions and from the neighbourhood, but they don’t stop needing each other.
Thus, the series, while embracing a political discourse to make way for the entry of the labor movement, class consciousness or the feminist mobilizations in Italian society in the 70s that were also going to partly shape the thinking of the characters, clearly reflects that the protagonists cannot be categorized into good and bad.
Moreover, they are closer to a concept of “corrupt women” and selfish, like the rest of the people, who are incapable of fully pursuing those models that they have idealized and that they associate to the other. While Lila tells Lenù that he “expects great things from her” because if he doesn’t achieve it, what good will it do her; Lenù is surprised to see that her friend, who has just separated, resigned from working in the sausage factory and exiled herself to the neighborhood, once again submits to the rules of the den of the community chiefs by accepting a job from the hand of the ones he has always pointed out as beasts, the Solara brothers.
Friends don’t make good decisions either.
Another of the great revelations that season 3 of ‘The Great Friend’ makes is to dismantle what was believed to be known by distancing the narration by continuing to stick to the point of view of Elena Greco, who now lives in Florence and has somewhat forgotten the particular ecosystem that continues to exist in the neighborhood that saw him born.
Running into a familiar face from the neighborhood again, Pasqueale Peluso, who at the beginning of the season can be seen looking for Lenù to help Lila, it becomes clear how the world has turned differently for both characters, without that it no longer makes any sense that they are together in the same room because of the prejudices they have of each other. They stopped knowing each other and they look like enemies.
The same ignorance and regret that floods Elena when she realizes that her little sister, Elisa, has taken the path she would never have wanted her to take, even though her sister had her sister to get to that point.
toxic relationships They lay the foundations of the universe of ‘The Great Friend’ and they do not have to improve if they prosper economically and become part of a wealthy middle class. In fact, Lenù is trapped by her own social achievement by settling down with Pietro Airota and forming a family.
An intellectual who has not been conditioned by the poverty of the neighborhood ends up cornering Elena Greco’s talent by seeing his work as a university professor more important than his wife’s task of writing, so the man who should be an ally because he has a lot of political theory in his head, he ends up subordinating Greco to the role of a woman caretaker as mother and housewife, without living space to let your imagination run wild and start writing. The opposite happens, for example, with Enzo and Lila, who despite being in the neighbourhood, with the black hole that it could suppose, and not having a completely normative romantic relationship, they manage to complement each other to feed each other.
Nino Sarratore is the third leg that limps, at different times in their lives, the existence of these friends and their aspirations to be something not “badly done” and that meets the standards of morality and exemplarity that a society like that of the neighbourhood, which on a small scale moves like a vigilant entity of everything and everyone, to find out what is going on in the streets and label each person who lives in them. Is about a character who has dragged each of them into the “dark” from his own selfishness.
However, in the end, what the protagonists of ‘The Great Friend’ pursue all the time, with the emotional backpack in tow of the other, is be able to get rid of what they should be, as well as the judgments of the other. Lenù’s daydreams about Lila sneak in there, too, which are reflected, for example, in those scenes of the series in which her friend is seen criticizing her novel as something coarse and insufficient.
But despite the ghosts, everything comes and there is a moment when, finally, you can stop to recognize yourself in the mirror and live consciously, despite having made bad decisions and not being perfect.