La Chimera is the fourth feature film from Italian director and screenwriter Alice Rohrwacher, who made her feature film début in 2011 with Corpo Celeste (Heavenly Body). It is the final piece of a triptych – including Le Meraviglie (The Wonders) (2014) and Lazzaro Felice (Happy as Lazzaro) (2018) – which poses, in Rohrwacher’s own words, the central question of what to do with the past. All three are set in the director’s home territory of Central Italy, and the landscape features prominently. French cinematographer Hélène Louvart shoots all of them with a mix of poetic febrility and technical imperfection – with attendant flaws in focus, grain, framing, and lighting, to create an artisanal effect.
Set in the 1980s, La Chimera is the story of young British archaeologist, Arthur (Josh O’Connor), who, because of his preternatural ability to divine emptiness beneath the earth’s surface, gets mixed up with local tomb raiders (tombaroli) who steal Etruscan artefacts to sell on the black market. After a brief stint in prison, Arthur returns to the small village by the Tyrrhenian Sea in search of his lost love, Beniamina (Yile Vianello), and ultimately falls back in with his former gang.