With “The Chimera”, filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher makes art the bridge that connects the living and the dead

In theaters on December 6, Alice Rohrwacher’s “The Chimera” takes moviegoers to discover the world of the “tombaroli”, these Etruscan tomb robbers in Italy who fuel the traffic in works of art.

France Télévisions – Culture Editorial


Reading time: 2 min

Scene from the movie "The Chimera" by Alice Rohrwacher (AD VITAM)

A woman’s face. A man dreaming on a train. This is how Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher introduces the hero of her latest film, The Chimera. Arthur, played by a lunar Josh O’Connor, has just come out of prison and returned to the small town, edge of the Tyrrhenian Sea, where he lives in Italy. LThe reception he receives does not seem to suit him at all. But very quickly, the one who has the gift of spotting the void finds the gang of Etruscan grave robbers and archaeological marvels, the “tombaroli”, to which he belongs and of which he is the “maestro”. Contrary to appearances, the man who never takes off his suit is a true lover of art.

After Happy like Lazzaro (Scenario Prize in 2018) and Wonders (Grand Prize of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival), Alice Rohrwacher submits to the competition an immersion in an activity which questions both the relationship to death and art. That of “tombaroli”, who ransacked tombs at least 2000 years, fuels art object trafficking networks which find buyers among collectors. The subject is, on many levels, serious, but it unfolds in a light atmosphere where we sing and dance, simply carried by life. At least, notably by the joy of living of Italia (Carol Duarte), the cleaning lady of Flora (Isabella Rossellini), a picturesque old lady who shares her roof with Arthur. The young English man, who summons his lost love Beniamina in his dreams, does not seem to be able to resist the charm of the sparkling mother of two children who is Italia.

The price of passage

Alice Rohrwacher plays with frames, using very playful staging – like these police officers chasing thieves in fast motion – to nourish a story that navigates between two parallel worlds: that of the living and the missing. The objects of art found in these Etruscan sculptures are supposed to be the price of passage to the other world, in order to redeem the souls of the deceased. The filmmaker seems, moreover, to contrast the void that we allow to settle in our lives – a metaphor of an abandoned train station which belongs to everyone and to no one – with the profusion of everyday objects that people find. looters in targeted graves.

Eventually, The Chimera turns out to be a nice stroll, sometimes underground (a space that Alice Rohrwacher likes since she was already filming a cave in Wonders), with heritage accents and full of vagueness to the soul, in the always very pigmented universe which distinguishes the Italian filmmaker.

Movie poster

Gender : drama
Director: Alice Rohrwacher
Actors: Josh O’Connor, Carol Duarte, Isabella Rossellini, Alba Rohrwacher and Vincenzo Nemolato
Country :Italy, France and Swiss
Duration : 2h13
Exit : December 6, 2023
Distributer : Ad Vitam
Synopsis:Back in his small town on the edge of the Tyrrhenian Sea, Arthur finds his band of Tombaroli, looters of Etruscan tombs and archaeological wonders. Arthur has a gift that he puts to the service of his bandit friends: he feels emptiness. The emptiness of the earth in which the remains of a past world lie. The same void that the memory of his lost love, Beniamina, left in him.

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