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La Chimera Review

by Daniel Reynolds
4.0 out of 5.0 stars

Writer-director Alice Rohrwacher’s films reveal a modern Italy locked in a struggle with itself. Her latest, La Chimera, continues this trend, taking place in a relatively contemporary period that is nonetheless still populated by people from the past, set in a rural land that time has forgotten. This contrast engages, even as the film takes its time to cohere.

As another contrast, it’s surprising to see actor Josh O’Connor as the star of La Chimera, even if his face blends in well and he speaks believable Italian; his character Arthur is still known as the Englishman, though. Befitting O’Connor’s presence and enigmatic performance, Arthur is in between worlds and relationships, much like the crew of grave robbers he leads. While they’ve dug out a way of life for themselves—one Arthur has returned to after a stint in prison—it’s become a hole from which they cannot escape. With welcome supporting performances from Isabella Rossellini and Carol Duarte, there are other duplicities in Rohrwacher’s film, some light-hearted, much of it self-inflicted; at one point, an ancient statue flies by in the clear blue sky, but this is not La Dolce Vita.

What Rohrwacher eventually mines from her narrative tells of the tragedy of this one man, while at the same time speaking of the broader community, such as it is, and the ongoing tension of class and identity between past, present, and future in the country. For as much digging as Arthur and his compatriots do out of necessity, they’re being buried too.

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