The Days of Abandonment (Roberto Faenza, 2005, Italy)

Days of Abandonment is the second feature adaptation of pseudonymous author Elena Ferrante’s work, following L’amore molesto in 1995. Following the success of the excellent series My Brilliant Friend, based on Ferrante’s Neapolitan novel series, it seems directors are now digging into Ferrante’s back catalog for inspiration. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s adaptation of Ferrante’s novel The Lost Daughter (La figlia oscura) is now in pre-production. Having just read the novel on which Days of Abandonment was based, I was curious to explore director Roberto Faenza’s 2005 adaptation. 
Faenza’s adaptation is remarkably close to Ferrante’s novel, only making a few slight changes, including the introduction of a framing device which allows for the inclusion of first-person narration from our protagonist Olga. The film nevertheless is somehow lacking compared to the novel, mainly due to Olga’s interior character never being fully realized on screen. Ferrante’s Olga endures a litany of self-loathing and suffering, but Faenza’s adaptation (the screenplay has seven writers attached to it) only brings to life her anger. The makes the film take on the cliches the novel narrowly avoids - the hysterical wife who falls into an obsessive rage over her husband leaving her for a younger lover.
Faenza’s adaptation is also curious in that it brings more sympathy to the male characters in the story than Ferrante’s novel. Mario, the abandoning husband, is given a more humanizing treatment in the film than in the book. Likewise, Damiano (Carano in the novel), Olga’s musician neighbor with whom she tries to have sex to get revenge on Mario, is also more softly portrayed in the film. This sex scene in the book, which is filled with Olga’s loathing not only for her self but also for Carano and his inability to perform sexually, is rendered somehow toothless in the film.
Days of Abandonment is a serviceable and faithful adaptation, but it could have been so much more.


5/10

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