“I saw similarities between his life and the society we live in”: An interview with Hidden Away director Giorgio Diritti
Not so widely known outside of Italy, the painter Antonio Ligabue has been given the biopic treatment in director Giorgio Diritti’s sumptuous Hidden Away (Volevo Nascondermi), which is in competition at this year’s Berlinale. Ligabue was a character of great contradictions, and the film doesn’t try to nail down the specifics of his life and struggles, but instead takes a more fluid approach. He was in and out of mental institutions throughout his relatively short life, and society’s aversion to those who are marginalised was one of the aspects of Ligabue’s life that compelled Diritti to make his film. We spoke with the director shortly after the film’s world premiere in Berlin.
What did you find so intriguing about Antonio Ligabue that made you want to make a film about his life?
The need to go deeper into the knowledge of an artist [came from] the fact that I have been familiar with Ligabue since I was very young, because he was popular back then, having died in 1965, and I saw similarities between his life experience – and his artistic experience – and the society we live in, in the way we tend to judge people by their outer look – to marginalise people. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but in Italy we had episodes of people who literally burnt homeless people who were sleeping on the street – they set them on fire, so the refusal, the total rejection of those who are not similar to a role model that we have in mind – also the problem people have with immigrants who are different – that was the topicality of the life experience of Ligabue.
Your depiction of Ligabue shows that he’s not a saint. How did you find the information that helped you to shape him as a character?
Yes, that was one of the aspects of him that really fascinated me, and he could be blunt – but very much authentic, like all borderline subjects and individuals – you know, they can be very straightforward, sometimes in a nasty way. But he was nasty, even before becoming famous. After he got a name [as an artist], it became more obvious, because he was like a child who grew up too quickly. I didn’t really want to sanctify or glorify him at all, I just wanted to portray his human experience, because I think it is very useful for all of us to mirror ourselves, you know, and to ask ourselves a lot of questions in terms of how consistent we are with our values, or with what we want to do – are we really doing what we dreamt we would be doing in terms of professional or personal fulfilment, or is that the result of compromise? Are we really happy, or are we somehow just accommodating what we have? His experience tells us a lot about our own awareness of the way we are, and the life that we decide to trace in front of ourselves, and to what extent we are willing to take shortcuts or go in other directions.
He lived such a rich and eventful life that it must have been hard to choose what had to be taken out for the sake of the film.
My choice, since the beginning, was not to make a traditional biopic, as you might have with many other artists, but to walk the line of emotions – the strongest emotions that he experienced in his life, mainly in his childhood, that then forged him as a person and an artist. It would be as if I asked you to tell me about your life, to tell me what you did in your life. You would probably select the most important episodes that made you what you are today. That was the criteria that we used, along with the loads of material that concerned him, as well as the anecdotes that concerned him. And beyond this idea of being made by the emotions that impressed him for better or worse, I also built my narrative and the arc of the character as if it were a black fairytale.
Hidden Away (Volevo Nascondermi) does not have a UK release date yet. Read our review here.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch a clip for Hidden Away (Volevo Nascondermi) here: