Features Live Action Movies

La Chimera
(La Chimera)

Director – Alice Rohrwacher – 2023 – Italy – Cert. 15 – 133m


In an attempt to come to terms with his past, an ex-con returns to his home town, where he previously used to rob ancient artefacts from burial sites and graves – out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 10th

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to get in La Chimera, and after watching it, I was none the wiser. Arthur (Josh O’Connor) comes out of prison and gets the train back to Tuscany. He meets some girls on a train, and the profile of one of them reminds him of decorative Etruscan art. He has a run in with a sock salesman, who tells him he smells.

Getting off the train, he tries hard not to be picked up by an old mate, who wants to take him to see a bunch of friends. He’s been in prison for grave-robbing and doesn’t want to get back into that game. Instead, he returns to the house of his deceased (or at least presumed deceased|) girlfriend Beniamina, where her mother Flora (an unrecognisable Isabella Rossellini) refuses to believe that Beniamina has gone. While Flora welcomes him with open arms, and introduces him to her maid and singing pupil Italia (Carole Duarte), she’s happy to be there. However, her daughters seem to be conspiring to put her into a home to get her out of the way.

This largely female world contrast greatly with the more male one which earned Arthur his prison sentence: He possesses a rare gift: the ability to locate ancient artefacts, the moment of inspiration shown on the screen by the momentary inversion of his image as he walks around. At other times, he employs a dowsing rod. One night after a local gathering with drink, food and music, he is walking around an area of waste ground at the water’s edge when he stumbles upon the motherlode: a large, undiscovered Etruscan tomb.

Later, he and his friends investigate, one of them removing the head of a statue in perfect condition. The head is all they get, though, because they scarper when the Cabinieri turn up. Except that these are not Cabinieri, but imposters who simply want Arthur and his gang out of the way so they can steal the treasure hoard themselves. The missing statue head will later prove an invaluable bargaining tool for Arthur and co. with the mysterious Spartaco, who runs a trade in illicit artefacts for international, archaeological museums.

The film is drenched with local sunlight and colour and Rohrwacher is blessed with the ability to pick out interesting little visual details such as Arthur’s feet carefully traversing a heap of decaying wooden plank fragments. Unfortunately, her method of making films seems to foreground such elements at the expense of delineating character or clarifying plot. A number of scenes feature groups of people who function as a group without it ever being clear who is who within the group.

The most memorable scenes are the tomb-robbing ones, with the looks of the places convincing and the artefacts inside being top-notch. You completely believe the labyrinthine tunnel networks and the artefact you find down there. Outside of those scenes, though – and there aren’t all that many of them – it’s not the easiest of narratives to follow, which at times make it an enormously frustrating viewing experience. It’s had mostly glowing reviews elsewhere, so I feel like something of a dissenting voice – however, I found it to be frequently tedious and far too long overall.

La Chimera is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, May 10th.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *