La Chimera Review

Alice Rohrwacher’s fourth feature La Chimera was a highlight of the Glasgow Film Festival 2024. Now on general release, the film has received an incredible reception, and for good reason. The narrative centres around Arthur, played by Josh O’Connor, an English archaeologist with an innate ability to perceive emptiness in the ground beneath him. After a short stint in prison, he returns to Tuscany, and quickly joins the tombaroli, a group of graverobbers who sell ancient artefacts on the black market. But Arthur is looking for something greater than these relics of the past - a door to the underworld, and his lost love Beniamina.

If that sounds slightly off the wall, it’s because Rohrwacher weaves a narrative grounded in Italian folklore. Inspired by the stories of her youth, Rohrwacher is keen to challenge the perception of traditional fairy tales which centre around royalty. Instead, La Chimera is a tapestry which takes from tales of animals, ghosts, peasants. The resulting effect is one unique to the director’s style. Every part of the film is rooted in Italian history, culture, and cinematic traditions.

The atmosphere lends itself perfectly to the large ensemble cast, who balance the often-comedic tone with moments of tension. Carol Duarte’s stand out performance as Italia brings the film back to reality, subtle yet deeply affecting. Her performance feels grounded and human, in contrast to her surroundings, a backdrop of magic and crime, making it hard not to empathise with her character. All of this is heavily tied to the Italian landscape Rohrwacher grew up in, captured perfectly by Hélène Louvart. The cinematography utilises aspect ratio, natural lighting, and more experimental techniques, reflecting the genre of magical realism.

La Chimera is the stunning final instalment of the directors’ informal trilogy, exploring Italy‘s connections to its own past. The film is deeply affecting, and shines on the big screen. A must see for any fans of Italian or independent cinema.


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