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  • Colin Fraser

LA CHIMERA

FOUR STARS A down-on-his-luck British archeologist helps rob Italian graves of their antiquities. A fairy tale, of sorts.

DRAMA ITALY Italian #LACHIMERA

Starring Josh O'Connor, Carol Duarte



This tale of modern-day grave-robbers in rural Italy is a delight, in a rambling, occasionally deranged kind of way. But just as the titular Chimera is hard to pin down, so is Alice Rohrwacher’s whimsically entertaining drama; one that’s equal parts surreal, satirical, mystical and mannered, full of light and dark. Perhaps a bit more dark than light - a fairy tale, of sorts.


The tale concerns the plight of Arthur (Josh O’Connor), a one-time student of archeology, more recently an ex-con who has a gift for divining the whereabouts of buried antiquities. He even uses saplings to find his quarry, rather like grifters of old who, arguably, found water in parched lands. Whether he’s a fake who relies on luck, or a man in touch with greater forces is immaterial. He delivers the goods to the delight of his fellow thieves and chagrin of local law who, naturally, are in the pocket of deeper interests. This is rural Italy in the 1980s.


But why a filthy, poorly dressed British man is hanging out with Italian opportunists in a crumbling village with the probable support of a fading dowager (Isabella Rossellini), herself down on her luck, is only the first of the story’s many questions and curiosities. It’s clearly not for the money and since he appears to have few friends, not for the company either. But you quickly come to understand these are not burning issues for Rohrwacher who is much more interested in making her study of pain and peace felt through the feel and flavour of her characters, rather than their direct circumstances. 


It makes for fascinating viewing with the film bouncing all over the screen as Arthur tries valiantly to elude a self-induced craziness that’s chasing him down. He’s a man making all the wrong choices and searching for serenity in all the wrong places. As Arthur, the always excellent O'Connor (THE CROWN's young Prince Charles) is a gruff, brooding presence that further elevates a distinguished film.


LA CHIMERA is a very liberated (and liberating) experience, one that taps into a rich heritage of Italian cinema that Rohrwacher uses to create a style very much her own. Is it crazed? Yes. Offbeat, compelling, dark and funny? Certainly. Rewarding? Absolutely. Seek it out.


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