La Chimera (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

May 26th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Alice Rohrwacher | Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Josh O’Connor, Isabella Rossellini Italy, Drama 130′

Alice Rohrwacher’s latest drama is set in the 1980s in world of the ‘tombaroli’ or tomb robbers and tells the story of an English archaeologist (Josh O’Connor) caught up in this illegal trafficking of ancient finds.

A magical poetic tenderness is the ephemeral quality in Rohrwacher’s unique style of filmmaking and her dreamlike fourth feature has the same lyrical lightness of touch that haunted Corpo Celeste, The Wonders and Happy as Lazarus in some ways completing the final trio. Unfolding in her home of Tuscany the tale once again connects the past with the present through a delicate thread linking Italy’s ancient history that is still so much part of everyday life where relics are as common as bus stops. La Chimera is a film that you gradually surface into as if waking out of the depths of a dream.

Italy’s Etruscan heritage was still being discovered at the end of the last century and a motley band of wayfarers chance upon this priceless buried treasure hoping it will provide for the rest of their lives. Arthur (O’Connor) leads the quest – but is also haunted by another, more heartfelt search, an illusory longing for Benjamina, a girl he loved and lost long ago. Her mother – a delightful Isabella Rossellini who brings so much resonant to the story with her personal history – is still living in the past in a decadent grandeur of the old station of Riparbella, with her family and housekeeper Italia (Duarte).

Sporting a crumpled cream linen suit – the sartorial masculine emblem of 1980s Italy – Arthur spends most of the film in a state of gruff melancholy after being hailed by the others as the quintessential Italian-speaking Englishman whose innate style and sense of conviction will lead them to the holy grail with his knack of locating sites with a flimsy forked branch. But like life itself, their odyssey is filled with dreams and illusions. Better to travel in hope than to arrive. MT


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