Hidden Away (Volevo Nascondermi)
There’s a slight distraction that might become evident when watching director Giorgio Diritti’s Volevo Nascondermi. As the Italian painter Antonio Ligabue in this randomly likeable biopic, actor Elio Germano, with his open face and moustache, bears more than a passing resemblance to Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat. Most active in the 1940s and 50s, Ligabue was classified as a naïve artist, and it’s his eventual artistic success that saved him from being nothing more than the village idiot.
Young Antonio is a problem child, prone to fits of anger. Afflicted with some form of learning disability, he’s subjected to the rather gruesome mental healthcare available in the early 20th century. Although born and raised in Switzerland (by adoptive parents who might have been motivated by the money they received for his care), he was an Italian citizen, and, well, how do you solve a problem like Antonio? By deporting him to Italy, that’s how. Antonio winds up in a rather picturesque Italian village, which lends itself to numerous luminous wide shots. He slowly ingratiates himself with the locals and begins to discover his calling.
Germano carries the film on his stooped shoulders, aptly demonstrating Antonio’s anger at a world always threatening to leave him behind, despite his success. And boy, is he angry. Though impressively extravagant, the repeated fits of anger are very much subject to the law of diminishing returns. Germano is superb (for the most part) but at times his gurning performance feels like it belongs on the stage, and doesn’t always withstand the scrutiny of the camera.
Although some performative elements of the film would have benefited from restraint, Diritti’s effort remains engaging throughout, and always looks ravishing. Obviously a certain narrative has to be constructed in order to compress a life into a two-hour film, and many intriguing aspects of the real Ligabue’s exploits are omitted or obscured. This actually works as a strength, emphasising Antonio’s selective outlook. Like Zac Efron attempting Shakespeare, Volevo Nascondermi is handsome, but not always convincing.
Hidden Away (Volevo Nascondermi) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
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