“The Chimera”: tombs that connect the living and the dead

“The Chimera”: tombs that connect the living and the dead


Perhaps you don’t yet know Alice Rohrwacher, despite her repeated selections at the Cannes Film Festival and a reputation that makes her the rising star of Italian auteur cinema. Italian, therefore (her surname is inherited from a German father, a violinist who fell in love, in the 1970s, with an Umbrian teacher), she is the author of four feature films since 2011, in which her sister inevitably plays, Alba Rohrwacher: Corpo celeste (2011), Les Merveilles (2014), Happy as Lazzaro (2018) and, today in theaters, this Chimère which lives up to its name.

Something of the singularity of the family experience – passed from militant leftism to alternative beekeeping – resonates strongly in this work which evokes without sentimentality or complacency (and on film) the jolting grandeur of minority experiences in a world which, all globalized whatever it is, seems to become uniform and stunted. Work that it will also be possible, until January 1 , 2024, to discover at the Center Pompidou, which is firing on all cylinders around it (exhibition, meetings, debates, master classes, etc.).

Now let’s talk “chimera” . A definition is necessary, which we look for in the old Robert in nine volumes which is gathering dust and drying out on the shelf. To summarize, the matter is between this “monstrous assemblage” which is offered to us as the figurative meaning of the famous mythological beast, and the literary “vain imagination, unrealizable project” . In Alice Rohrwacher’s film, which has a bit of both, the thing takes the form of the return of a great English swindler, Arthur, to a small village on the Tyrrhenian coast. There, after a stay in prison, he joined a merry band of tombolari , these Etruscan tomb robbers who robbed ancient necropolises to feed themselves first, and then to feed the very lucrative contraband market for ancient art.

inconsolable love

Arthur, a rather dark, taciturn and angry boy, is also a great romantic who burns inside with an inconsolable love for Beniamina, a young blonde girl whose memory comes back to him in brief solar visions, even though she seems beautiful. and having joined the kingdom of the dead. But this is something he refuses to admit, by mutual agreement with Flora (Isabella Rossellini), the latter’s mother, source of a solid elective affinity. On this, the film is organized like this. First in Flora’s house, a residence of sumptuous and decrepit beauty clinging to valleys of gentle beauty. A real gynoecium where the mistress of the place enslaves a young woman named Italia under the pretext of giving her singing lessons, as well as a group of girls who all speak at the same time and plan to place Flora in a retirement home. Between Arthur and Italia, moreover, a little something grows, which could be love if the dead Beniamina was not so alive and vibrant in Arthur’s heart.

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