The film tells the story of Arthur, a young English archaeologist who, after the death of his beloved, Beniamina, returns to his hometown, Tarquinia, in Italy. Here, Arthur reunites with his old gang of grave robbers, who earn their living by stealing archaeological finds. Arthur has a special gift: he is able to feel the void underground, where the ancient tombs are located.
Together with the gang, Arthur begins digging for treasure. But the world of grave robbers is dangerous and full of traps. Arthur finds himself having to deal with his conscience and his past.
The film is an allegory of the relationship between life and death, between past and present. La chimera, a fantastic creature with parts of different animals, represents the union of these two worlds.
The film was received positively by critics, who praised Rohrwacher’s direction, the actors’ performances and the beauty of the images.
The cast of the film consists of Josh O’Connor, Carol Duarte, Isabella Rossellini, Alba Rohrwacher and Vincenzo Nemolato.
Josh O’Connor plays Arthur, the film’s protagonist. Carol Duarte plays Beniamina, Arthur’s lost love. Isabella Rossellini plays Arthur’s mother. Alba Rohrwacher plays Arthur’s sister. Vincenzo Nemolato plays the leader of the gang of grave robbers.
The plot of the film La Chimera takes place in the 1980s and follows the events of Arthur, a young English archaeologist who, after the death of his beloved, Beniamina, returns to his hometown, Tarquinia, in Italy.
Arthur is a man tormented by pain over the loss of Beniamina. His relationship with the girl had been intense and passionate, and her death left an unfillable void in his life.
In Tarquinia, Arthur finds his old gang of grave robbers, who earn their living by stealing archaeological finds. The gang is led by a man called Manlio, who is also Arthur’s childhood friend.
Arthur has a special gift: he is able to feel the void underground, where the ancient tombs are located. This gift allows him to find treasures that other grave robbers cannot see.
Together with the gang, Arthur begins digging for treasure. The first excavations are a success, and Arthur begins to earn money and build a reputation in the world of grave robbers.
On the one hand, Arthur is attracted by the money and power that the world of grave robbers offers him. On the other hand, Arthur is aware that his work is illegal and harmful to Italy’s cultural heritage.
Furthermore, Arthur begins to see Beniamina again in his dreams. Arthur’s dreams are increasingly vivid and intense, and lead him to reflect on his past and his future.
Production of the film La Chimera began in 2022 and ended in 2023. The film was shot in Italy, mainly in the cities of Tarquinia and Rome.
The production of the film was handled by the Tempesta Film company, in collaboration with Rai Cinema. The film’s budget was approximately 3 million euros.
The direction of the film was entrusted to Alice Rohrwacher, who also wrote the screenplay together with Francesco Munzi. The cast of the film consists of Josh O’Connor, Carol Duarte, Isabella Rossellini, Alba Rohrwacher and Vincenzo Nemolato.
Filming of the film began in Tarquinia, a city in the province of Viterbo, in June 2022. Filming took place in several locations in the city, including the archaeological site of Tarquinia, the National Etruscan Museum of Tarquinia and the surrounding countryside.
Filming then continued in Rome, where the scenes set in the city were filmed. Filming in Rome concluded in September 2022.
The film was edited by Marco Spoletini. The film’s soundtrack was composed by Giovanni Sollima.
The film was presented in competition at the 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, where it received the AFCAE Award. The film was released in Italian cinemas on 23 November 2023.
Here are some additional details about the film’s production:
- The choice of Tarquinia as the film’s location was dictated by the presence of the archaeological site of Tarquinia, which is one of the most important Etruscan archaeological sites in the world.
- The shooting of the film was authorized by the Italian Ministry of Culture.
- The production of the film collaborated with the Superintendency of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for Southern Etruria.
The distribution of the film La Chimera was handled by the company 01 Distribution. The film was released in Italian cinemas on 23 November 2023.
Initially, the film was released in a limited number of theaters, mainly in large Italian cities. However, following the appeal of Alice Rohrwacher and Josh O’Connor, the film was rescheduled in numerous Italian cinemas, becoming the top grosser in many theaters in the largest Italian cities including Milan, Rome, Bologna, Turin and Florence .
The film was also released in other countries, including France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Here are some additional details about the film’s distribution:
- The film was distributed in Italy by 01 Distribution, an Italian film distribution company.
- The film was released in a limited number of theaters for the first week of its run.
- The film was rescheduled in numerous Italian cinemas following the appeal of Alice Rohrwacher and Josh O’Connor.
- The film was also released in other countries, including France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom.
La Chimera by Alba Rohrwacher is certainly a very interesting film compared to what we have been used to seeing for years on the Italian scene. A courageous film, with naturalistic acting, with sudden bursts of visual experimentation, with images and photography of notable figurative taste.
The border that marks the clear difference between La Chimera and the other films I have seen in the last year is the desire to return to an archaic cinema, a cinema of powerful images that prefers content rather than packaging, a cinema that manifests the desire to return to the style of great masters of Italian cinema of the 50s and 60s, with a realistic and almost documentary aesthetic, characters that seem like real people spied on by a hidden camera as if in an extraordinary anthropological research.
The film is populated with crazy and bizarre characters, outsiders who express all their humanity through colorful and loud, at times delirious, gestures and language. It is a film that also tries to experiment with amateur images from the eighties that frame the sky and birds in flight, shots that turn upside down, images of accelerated races that recall Comencini’s Pinocchio or, even earlier, Federico Fellini’s Eight and a Half.
It’s a shame, however, that in all this there is very little that is original, of the director’s personal creation and of her vision of the world. It’s also a shame that the quality that more than any other contributes to making a film great is completely missing: rigor. It is these two elements that completely reduce the potential of this cinematic tale and put it in line with a certain category of films that today tries to imitate the masters of the past to try to raise their quality above contemporary mediocrity.
The first element, non-originality, is rampant everywhere in contemporary cinema, up to the current heights of certain streaming platforms that produce embarrassing, algorithmic and photocopied cinema. Or of certain authors who, by copying sequences, scenes, shots, even details and makeup from Federico Fellini’s cinema hands down, even manage to win the great prizes of the New World Cinema and be consecrated as gurus of moving images. The contemporary situation for art and cinema is truly embarrassing. Trapped.
This is not the case with La Chimera which still manages to have its own personality and its own poetic world. But those who know Federico Fellini’s cinema well begin to see entire scenes copied from the master’s films from the beginning of Rohrwacher’s film. The bonfire scene seems to come straight out of Amarcord and one of the characters wears a wool hat just like the mad Judgment.
It’s impossible here to list all the clones, quotes and Fellini-esque “sobs” that are in the film but I’ll limit myself to saying that almost the entire story in images is made up of Fellini-esque pieces, quotes and reshuffles. And here what could have been a highly original world, an archaic story of grave robbers told like no one had ever done, collapses. To Fellini’s imagery is added, mentioned in a less direct way, that of Pasolini and a certain way of directing actors and conceiving characters, landscapes, the outskirts of the world.
Why still, for the thousandth time, continue to quote and copy someone else’s imagery, even if he was a master? To win a new major World Cinema award, which Fellini clones seem to attract like flies to honey? No. The answer is that today the imagination really seems to be missing. Or rather: we lack the courage to search for it to the end, taking on all the responsibilities. The powerful and unforgettable imagery of the great authors is certainly missing and it seems that today’s directors must at all costs rely on something that has already been created and consolidated, renouncing their own original vision of the world, renouncing the risk of an adventure unique.
Obviously it is legitimate to quote and be inspired by authors of the past. Fellini was too, with the difference however that his style completely transfigured his inspirations, becoming even more powerful than the material from which it took inspiration. The grandeur of cinema is precisely that of creating its own imagination. What is missing is the ability to create unique and personal imagery that stands out from anything that has already been done.
Even entire juries, international experts, industries of imagination, academic worlds of “fake” art reward people who clone imaginaries. We are at a terminus from which a new train must necessarily leave. There is something that doesn’t work and that arouses many suspicions, in cinema and in many other sectors. But this is not the only problem with La Chimera. There is another perhaps even more burdensome. It’s called “rigor”, and it’s that quality that every film desperately asks of its author in order to exist as a functioning mechanism.
The first part of the film, with the exception of the beautiful opening scene, is lost in digressions whose function we cannot understand, superfluous characters who, if completely cut from the film, would have greatly favored the spectator’s involvement. Instead, boredom sets in almost immediately.
The film continually stretches out in a primordial and folkloristic soup of picturesque faces, screams, landscapes, atmospheres, frescoes which, taken individually, can even fascinate for a few moments. But at a certain point in the film we ask ourselves: what are all these images for? What is their role in the mathematical theorem that every successful film should be? The consequence of all this lack of rigor is boredom. The story only really begins almost halfway through the film when the group of grave robbers enters the first tomb.
In the second part, however, there are the most successful and original sequences. Perhaps the most beautiful one is the art auction held in the middle of the lake on a vaporetto that seems to have come out of the Mississippi River, in one of the most visionary scenes of Italian cinema in recent years. The subjective view of the sinking statue, after being thrown by the protagonist to the bottom of the lake, is truly beautiful, concluded by an extraordinary final image in which the head raises the mud and sand on the seabed.
The entire final sequence of the film works very well and leaves its mark. The hero is unable to redeem himself through love and chooses to leave home, from a warm bed where he can find a normal and comfortable life, and face his ruin, his obsession with tombs.
The power of the final scene, which obviously I won’t talk about here, consists in the spectator’s identification in the subjective, in the transference that allows us to experience the same terrible emotions as the protagonist. The same magic that happens in the scene with the head sinking into the lake.
In conclusion La chimera is definitely a movies to watch, above the average of today’s cinema. It is certainly a very different film from what we are used to consuming as “disposable” products. But it is also a missed opportunity to be able to give birth to a new masterpiece, something of which contemporary industrial cinema seems to have pure terror. Never be completely original, never shape new imagery that has never been seen before. It may not work at the box office. Today’s authors seem to have a terrible inferiority complex, succubi and spokesmen of the great masters of the past.
It’s as if they were saying: who am I to shape my imagination if there is already a genius who did it much better before me, and I can rely on him? Forgetting the fundamental thing, that is, that the imagination is unique, personal, inimitable. We should delve deeper and free ourselves from all influences to start creating the new great masterpieces of Italian cinema. Great directors don’t make films, they don’t make cinema, but they invent other worlds, they invent Cinema.