Belittled, beaten and tortured, Anton/Toni Ligabue (Elio Germano) is the child of an Italian immigrant that nobody wants to care for. Years later, driven to the Italian border and disowned by the Swiss authorities, it turns out that the Italians are ashamed of him too. Living a feral life on the scraps he can glean from the land, nearby sculptor Renato Marino Mazzacurati finally takes him in. Recognising a nascent talent for painting, both Renato and his mother are the first ones to show Toni any compassion. However, the road to the acceptance for such physically and psychologically damaged talent will be far from straight…
…is a searing, often uncomfortable portrait of a talent continually denied expression or tenderness.
From ‘Hidden Away’s’ opening, intercut moments of Toni’s tormented journey from child to adolescent, director Giorgio Diritti deliberately disorientates you as he shows Toni’s life from a bruised point-of-view. Coaxed into believing that “there’s a nasty devil inside his head” he adopts his foster parent’s sense of shame with rains rock blows down to his bleeding forehead. Unable to process either the grief he feels for a little girl who dies or the locals whose slights ignite a ranting rage inside him, Toni finds himself relegated to a sanatorium. Yet when two art collectors come to see his paintings, a roadmap to the future presents itself where finally some measure of respect might be afforded.
In a film where judgement is the only critical currency and yet also holds the key to self-worth, ‘Volevo nascondermi / Hidden Away’ is a searing, often uncomfortable portrait of a talent continually denied expression or tenderness. Thematically linked to Julian Schnabel’s recent ‘At Eternity’s Gate‘, both painters shared lives of misunderstanding which drove them into seclusion for their vivid, non-linear renditions of life. Whereas Schnabel’s mused history of Van Gogh takes aim at religious intolerance, ‘Hidden Away’ merely glances in the direction of the nascent fascism brewing in 1930’s Italy. That said, this painterly biopic also has another totally committed performance at its heart. Wracked by ill health and a prone body that imitates the animals that Toni sees in his imagination, actor Elio Germano is commendably consumed by Toni’s anguished lust for life.
For a film whose thrashing, opening mechanics calm down in as with its characters level off into civility, ‘Hidden Away’ is an uncomfortable yet uplifting two hours in the life of a man that few gave a chance to.
Maybe you should.