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La chimera

Rohrwacher's characters chase after a pipe dream, a chimera. Quick money, lost love, the reunification with the deceased, and social interactions that occur outside of the capital.

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Rural Italy has been the focus of two Alice Rohrwacher’s films. 2014‘s THE WONDERS is about a family of honey farmers and 2018‘s HAPPY AS LAZARRO is set in a tobacco plantation. LA CHIMERA is meant to close out the trilogy with a look into the world of Tuscan grave robbers in the 1980s. All three films deal with the question of how to handle the past which does not only inscribe itself in the people but also the land. Rohrwacher blends reality with poetic, almost fairy tale-like elements here too, merging Fellini’s fantasy with Italian neorealist cinema.

In LA CHIMERA, archaeologist Arthur (Josh O’Connor) is the main focus. He is British and part of a group of “Tombaroli,“ grave robbers who lift Etruscan grave goods from the Tuscan soil and sell them to the mysterious art dealer Spartaco (Alba Rohrwacher). Arthur goes to jail because of it and returns to the little town on the hill where his gang awaits him. The reception is warm because the Brit has a special gift. He uses a divining rod to track down the ancient burial chambers. Arthur hasn’t just lost his freedom, but also his big love Beniamina. She visits him in his day and night dreams and lives on in his head in the shabby castle of her mother Flora (Isabella Rossellini). Arthur meets Italia (Carol Duarte) there, a singing student and unpaid main of former opera singer Flora, who is the only one who doesn't seem to be striving for money or the past, but rather wants a good future for herself and her two children.

Rohrwacher’s characters are all chasing a dream, a chimera. Fast money through selling stolen artworks that are actually common goods, lost love, the reunion with the dead or a social interaction that occurs outside of capitalism. The director and screenwriter does this with melancholic, winking humor and nostalgic images in grainy film. Again and again she breaks the illusions herself, for example when the charming Tombaroli gang reveal their greed after the discovery of a richly decorated grave or in their spiteful interaction with Italia, who, despite her name, is a stranger with a weird accent: someone who is not part of it and can be fooled and exploited. LA CHIMERA is a parable about the exploitation of people and land that reminds us of interpersonal relationships with warmth and humor.

Clarissa Lempp (INDIEKINO MAGAZIN)

Translation: Elinor Lewy

Credits

Original title: La chimera
Italien/Frankreich/Schweiz 2023, 130 min
Genre: Drama
Director: Alice Rohrwacher
Author: Alice Rohrwacher, Carmela Covino, Marco Pettenello
DOP: Hélène Louvart
Montage: Nelly Quettier
Distributor: Piffl Medien
Cast: Josh O'Connor, Isabella Rossellini, Alba Rohrwacher, Luca Chikovani, Carol Duarte, Julia Vella, Vincenzo Nemolato
FSK: 12
Release: 11.04.2024

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La chimera

(La chimera) | Italien/Frankreich/Schweiz 2023 | Drama | R: Alice Rohrwacher | FSK: 12

Rohrwacher's characters chase after a pipe dream, a chimera. Quick money, lost love, the reunification with the deceased, and social interactions that occur outside of the capital.

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