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BERLINALE 2020 Competition

Giorgio Diritti • Director of Hidden Away

“It was important to express the feelings from Ligabue's paintings through the colours and framing”


- BERLINALE 2020: Cineuropa met up with Giorgio Diritti to discuss Hidden Away, his biopic on 20th-century Italian artist Antonio Ligabue

Giorgio Diritti  • Director of Hidden Away

Cineuropa met up with Italian director Giorgio Diritti at the 70th Berlin Film Festival, where Hidden Away [+see also:
film review
interview: Giorgio Diritti
film profile
, his biopic on 20th-century Italian artist Antonio Ligabue, starring Elio Germano, premiered in competition.

Cineuropa: When did you first become fascinated by the artist Antonio Ligabue?
Giorgio Diritti: In Italy, he is quite well known, although he is a minor painter. The reason why he is well known is that on one hand, he is eccentric, a very peculiar and unique artist. He was not well known for most of his life. Then, he got recognised and appreciated by some distinguished representatives of Italian culture of the time, the writer Cesare Zavattini and the actor Walter Chiari. So there was a rise in interest in him, but then Ligabue got ill and died soon after. But he went through a moment of being famous. He is a painter who painted animals, and that piqued my curiosity when I was a kid. That is still what drives children to discover him nowadays.

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So it was when you were a child that you discovered Ligabue?
The first time I discovered him was when I was a child. But then, I rediscovered him in the 1970s, when RAI broadcast a television series about the story of his life and his career. But it was only recently, maybe six or seven years ago, that my interest rose again. 

When did you decide that you wanted your colours, framing and aesthetic to mirror his paintings?
When I started talking to the cinematographer, we pondered how to convey the feeling of his paintings through the visuals, without always showing the paintings themselves. We do that occasionally in the film, but it was important to express a sense of his paintings, and the sources of inspiration, through the colours and framing.

Do you see this as a film about artistic freedom or one about mental illness?
Both, but less so for mental illness. We don’t know if he had a mental illness; he was never diagnosed with a disease. The mental illness is part of the human experience. It is a film about the freedom of the artist, identity and the fulfilment of one’s dreams and inclinations. It’s also a movie that is about the fact that despite him not being loved, and suffering humiliation as a child, there was a way out.

What made you decide that you had to have Elio Germano play Ligabue, despite that meaning he had to do four hours of make-up every day?
Because Elio is the best! Each and every artist must feel love when they want to reach an artistic result, and, of course, that means sacrifices have to be made, and it’s a struggle to get there. Yes, Elio’s sacrifice was to undergo four hours of prosthetic make-up every day, and my sacrifice was having less time on set to shoot every day. Elio has exactly the right soul and the sensitivity to play Ligabue. Beyond the technique, it was essential to have an emotional approach to the character, which is what Elio is so talented at.

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