Biopics are tricky; there is a balance to strike between comprehensively covering the subject’s entire life and picking a dramatically satisfying theme and tone. Hidden Away reaches for the former but brings no insight or sensitivity to the life of Antonio Ligabue in the process. The entire film, but notably the childhood sections, leans heavily into the spectacle of abuse. This choice feels exploitative of the artist’s youth and physical and mental illnesses, which go unexplored aside from the bullying and physical/behavioural manifestations. In 2020, it feels a notably retrogressive depiction of mental health issues in the sense that – while claiming sympathy for the painter – it applies a voyeuristic, unspecific lens to his symptoms and struggles.

Elio Germano’s performance is full blooded and physically committed, but the camera leers over his breakdowns and the script lacks any insight into Ligabue’s thoughts, fears, and ambitions. As he flips on a dime between artistic focus, incoherent rage, and fixations on motorcycles and women, the humanity is swept aside in favour of the external demonstrations. The lifelong scope and overly explanatory script hinder any additional authentic characterisations.

To Hidden Away’s credit, the film’s second half – set in Ligabue’s adulthood once his artistic skills are recognised – improves on the first. Instead of flying through a litany of traumas, Ligabue and his colleagues are given space to organically develop relationships. Additionally, the film breaks out of its overly-literal depictions in favour of more creative, abstract segments, which adds texture and originality.

There is certainly a worthwhile biopic to be made of Ligabue’s life, notably with Germano in the leading role, and thus the gratuitous cruelty and sensationalism of Hidden Away feels like a missed opportunity. The film falls into the worst pitfalls of the genre, only slightly redeeming itself in the fanciful final act.



CAST: Elio Germano, Pietro Traldi, Orietta Notari, Andrea Gherpielli, Oliver Ewy

DIRECTOR: Giorgio Diritti

WRITERS: Giorgio Diritti, Tania Pedroni

SYNOPSIS: Hidden Away tells the story of Antonio Ligabue, a revolutionary loner in modern art who battles physical and mental illness throughout his life.