La Chimera at HOME

Tom Grieve, Cinema Editor
La Chimera
HOME

La Chimera at HOME Manchester, Manchester Until 23 May 2024 Tickets from £7.95 — Book now

Josh O’Connor plays Arthur, an outlaw archeologist, and professional grave robber, recently released from prison in Alice Rohrwacher’s latest, La Chimera. As slippery in form as the beast from which it takes its name, the film follows Englishman Arthur, and his gang of merry thieves as they plunder from Etruscan tombs across rundown towns and dusty countryside of central Italy. O’Connor speaks in Italian throughout, his mumbled pronunciation and striking physical prescience marking him as different to the ramshackle cohort who accompany him on these raids.

For them, they are folk heroes and adventurers, self-mythologising noble bandits making a living where living is hard. This sense is magnified by Rohrwacher’s decision to leave the setting, fashions and language ambiguous — the events on screen could be unfolding at any point over the past half-decade or more, and the characters could slot into a Fellini or Pasolini film without much trouble. For his part, Arthur, the film’s totem, is more mysteriously driven than those around him.

The Englishman leads the gang thanks to his mysterious ability to divine the location of the tombs they seek. He’s in tune with the world of the dead, and holds a reverence for their treasures that his accomplices do not share. Arthur is also reeling from the loss of his love Beniamina (Yile Vianello). He won’t admit that she is dead, but she haunts his dreams and he seeks to stay close to her mother, Flora (Isabella Rossellini) within whom he finds a partner in denial.

You could describe La Chimera as a work of magical realism, although that term feels a bit loaded, and ties Rohrwacher’s film to much lesser works. This is nimble, ambiguous and frequently breathtaking. At first we are invited to examine routine moral questions of commerce, history and ownership, but Rohrwacher deals us aesthetic sideswipes; moments that force you to consider the weight of the grief and loss of a millennia all at once. It says something the director manages to make one swing of a hammer and chisel into marble feel more shocking, more violent than anything else on screen this year.

La Chimera at HOME Manchester, Manchester Until 23 May 2024 Tickets from £7.95 Book now

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