Series review: Luna Nera
- Available from 31 January, the new Italian Netflix Original series looks back at a dark time in our History - the phenomenon of witch-hunting – and re-writes it by way of the fantasy genre
“Tremate, tremate, le streghe son tornate!” (literally: “Be afraid, very afraid: the witches have returned!”). This historic feminist slogan is a perfect fit for the new Netflix series shot and produced in Italy, which will be available on the global streaming platform as of 31 January; firstly, because Luna nera is about witch-hunting, but also because you’d struggle to find a more feminist work. Written by women, directed by women and featuring a cast of extraordinary actors, both established and emerging, this series is a hymn to female pride, to the freedom and diversity of women and to their superpowers, both real and metaphorical. This is Italy’s first dip into the field of fantasy series and, going by the first two episodes, presented in a premiere on Tuesday in Rome (the ones directed by Cristina Comencini – read our news), it’s a job very well done.
Thousands of women accused of witchcraft were burned in Italy and Europe in the 17th century, but very little is known about them. Who were these individuals persecuted purely for being different and for having special gifts? Based upon the first book from the homonymous trilogy written by Tiziana Triana, the series looks to give a voice to these women, following in the footsteps of an adolescent, Ade (the Italian actress of Greek origin Antonia Fotaras, previously seen in Romulus & Remus – The First King [+see also:
film profile] and in the TV series The Name of the Rose and Skam Italia). A seemingly normal girl who works as a midwife, Ade is accused of using sorcery to bring about the demise of a newborn. Sentenced to death by an entire community who turn their back on her (when they’re not spitting at her), she has no choice but to take refuge in the woods and in a dwelling inhabited by a group of proud and mysterious women (a group which her mother, Barbara Ronchi, was also once a part of), who take care of Ade and reveal her worrying origins.
Hunting Ade and her new companions (a diverse cast of witches composed of Lucrezia Guidone, Federica Fracassi and Adalgisa Manfrida, led by the magnificent Manuela Mandracchia) is the Benandanti clan, a group of men (guided by Giandomenico Cupaiolo, but there’s also a woman among them, Gloria Carovana) blinded by ignorance and fear. Battling against their obtuse superstition, we find Pietro (Giorgio Belli), a young and enlightened man of science and a scholar of medicine who falls in love with Ade, but who is also destined to lead a very difficult life, since he must contend with an enemy living within the same four walls (the head of the Benandanti clan is his father). Ade, meanwhile, just like any other adolescent in search of her own identity, will slowly learn to recognise and make use of her “powers”.
Women who are discriminated against and who discover their strength, the conflict between science and superstition, a story of impossible love and a coming-of-age tale set against the backdrop of a hostile world... The plot of Luna nera operates on various levels, all of which are very well intertwined and strike just the right balance between realism and fantasy. It’s a series about magic, yes (and, according to its authors, subsequent episodes will travel down this route even farther), but the characters are fundamentally real and human, with all their corresponding emotions and fragility – the baddies, too. It’s a convincing work which retraces a dark time in human History and re-writes it by way of the fantasy genre. It provides these “witches” with a chance for redemption and offers more parallels with the present than we might, at first, think possible.
Produced by Fandango, Luna nera is a six-part series (the subsequent episodes of which are directed by Susanna Nicchiarelli and Paola Randi) and will be available on Netflix from 31 January.
(Translated from Italian)
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