Lying game

Lying game

Michael Pickard
By Michael Pickard
May 1, 2019

IN FOCUS

As British thriller Liar enters production on its second season, DQ hears how the creative team behind the Italian adaptation of the drama, Non Mentire, tailored their version of the show for a local audience.

For six weeks in autumn 2017, British viewers were hooked on ITV thriller Liar. The series became the network’s highest-rated new drama that year, pulling in an average audience of 8.3 million, while more than nine million tuned in for the finale.

The show follows teacher Laura Nielsen and doctor Andrew Earlham, who share a seemingly enjoyable evening together. The next morning, however, while Andrew is looking forward to seeing her again, Laura claims he raped her. As the series unfolded on ITV, audiences found themselves split over who was telling the truth and who was the titular liar.

The drama, starring Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey) and Ioan Gruffudd (Harrow), is now in production on its second season, with Cheat’s Katherine Kelly joining the cast. It has again been written by Harry and Jack Williams and produced by Two Brothers Pictures in partnership with SundanceTV in the US. All3Media International handles distribution.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, an Italian adaptation – Non Mentire – launched on Mediaset’s Canale 5. Adapted by Lisa Nur Sultan and directed by Gianluca Maria Tavarelli (Non Prendere Impegni Stasera), the series was relocated to Turin, with Greta Scarano starring as Laura Nardini and Alessandro Preziosi playing the accused, Andrea Molinari.

The remake came from Indigo Films, which is best known as a feature film producer but is starting to push into television series for the first time. “Channels have expressed interest in working with us,” says Indigo producer Carlotta Calori. “Mediaset wanted to work with us because cinema producers have great access to talent and can provide a different product. The idea of doing Liar came from them; they had seen the original and liked it and wanted to do it, so they asked us to adapt it. Luckily, they could get Gianluca – it’s our first time working with him – and Lisa did a great job adapting it.”

Having enjoyed the original series enormously, Nur Sultan says she had no intention of changing the plot. “However, I wanted to find ways of making it connect to the Italian audience as much as possible,” she adds. “The first job was with the dialogue, making it as local as possible to make it as authentic as possible, so I was very careful to rewrite the dialogue in that way.”

The writer also made some of the characters “more Italian.” A stay-at-home dad in the original works from home in Non Mentire, while Laura’s sister, who is cheating on her husband in Liar, is more focused on her family in the adaptation. “We also made the male protagonist a little bit more sure of himself,” she says.

Aspects of the Italian legal system were also included, while Nur Sultan says one of her favourite scenes – and one which isn’t in the original – introduced a new perspective. When Laura posts a message on social media that accuses Andrea of rape, the headteacher at the school where she works warns her to think about the consequences of her actions, including the implications for Andrea’s son, a student at the school.

Non Mentire stars Alessandro Preziosi and Greta Scarano

“It was important to include because a headmistress would never allow a Facebook post like that,” Nur Sultan notes. “We also felt a lot of the things the headmistress says had to be shown.”

Tavarelli watched the original series shortly after signing on to the project, but then did his best to cast it from his mind to ensure it didn’t affect his decisions during filming. “I didn’t want to copy the style; I wanted to start from the scripts and do my own work,” he explains. “It’s better not to see it. If you see it, you might be much more influenced by it.”

He adopted a ‘natural’ style of camerawork in an attempt to give the audience the viewpoint of a fly on a wall that follows the movements of the characters. “I’d just come from a lot of period pieces, so doing a contemporary piece was actually easier,” he says. “I tried to push the thriller aspects and the suspense so it was a relatively straightforward shoot.”

Non Mentire was produced in less than a year, from the start of writing the scripts in April 2018 to the show’s launch in February. Shooting took place in Turin and Rome across 11 weeks last summer.

Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd are now filming season two of the original Liar

Despite the boom in original content on established channels and fledging streaming platforms, Calori believes there’s still a place for adaptations.

“It’s a bit like a book. Even though you’ve read the book, you will go and see the film,” she argues. “A lot of people won’t have seen the original series in Italy, but our version stands up in its own right. It’s for an Italian audience, we have Italian actors in it. There are four or five versions of The Great Gatsby and everyone knows how it will end.

“The original Liar wasn’t a big success here. Maybe if it had been a huge success, we would have thought twice about it. So far I think it has enough to stand up on its own. It’s a show in its own right.”

But while scripted formats might still be in demand, it’s original series like My Brilliant Friend, Suburra, Gomorrah and Inspector Montalbano that mean Italian drama itself is very much in vogue.

“It’s a bit like what happened in Scandinavia. It started out with mafia dramas but it’s not just about those shows anymore,” Calori adds. “Gianluca’s shows like Maltese and The Young Montalbano have travelled a lot abroad. Montalbano is a huge success. We’ve noticed we’re up there now; there’s a lot of interest from international companies to work with Italians. It’s a nice moment for Italian drama. The fact that a show like My Brilliant Friend was commissioned in the US has shown that if it’s a good story, it will travel.”

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