‘La Chimera’ Review: Josh O’Connor is a Grave Robber Seeking More Elusive Treasure in Alice Rohrwacher’s Enchanting New Film
26.05.2023 - 16:29
Guy Lodge Film Critic In “La Chimera,” the ancient past nestles mere inches below the surface of the present, eventually breaking above ground and disrupting, if not the space-time continuum, the more mundane order of things. The borders between life and death feel similarly frictious and permeable, as if we could merely visit one from the other, as easily as sleeping and waking. Arthur (Josh O’Connor), the wandering Brit at the center of Alice Rohrwacher’s marvelously supple and sinuous new film, is accustomed to such limbo states. So are admirers of Rohrwacher’s filmmaking, which, in this eccentric, romantic tale of competing grave-robbers in Central Italy, touches the transcendental without diving into the outright fabulism of 2018’s “Happy as Lazzaro.”
Grounding the feyer impulses of “La Chimera” — a return for Rohrwacher to more metaphysical musings after the simpler charms of her Oscar-nominated short “Le Pupille” — is, well, the literal ground: grubby and gritty and, in this region of Italy, packed with archaeological delights from the Etruscan era. Here, you can take a spade to just about any patch of land and, in minutes, uncover a literal wealth of millennia-old vases, utensils and ornaments. It is the early 1980s, and bands of tombaroli (illegal grave-robbers with an eye for an artefact) are cashing in, digging up once-sacred objects and selling them on to the elite ancient art market. What use are they underground, after all? The tombaroli are no more sentimental about the goods they dig up than a potato farmer is about his crop: It’s a living, and notwithstanding interference from the police and infighting among them, it’s an easier one than many. Arthur, wonderfully played by O’Connor with a loping gait
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