Review: La Chimera


Filmmakers have long understood cinema to be a magical form of art. From the technological and artistic innovations that allowed sound and image to marry on-screen, to the chemical properties of film itself, cinematic history is entrenched in “magic.” Artists like George Méliès and Maya Deren used the forms to cast magic spells – both as a ritual for themselves or to create illusions for their audiences. Nowadays, this magic still exists but few filmmakers are able to truly capture it. Alice Rohrwacher and her latest feature film La Chimera is a testament to cinematic power and the magic of that form.

LA CHIMERA - Official Trailer

La Chimera
Director: Alice Rohrwacher
Release Date: March 29, 2024 (Theatrical)
Rating: Not rated.

La Chimera is the story of Arthur (Josh O’Connor), a man recently released from jail. Arthur is a gifted archaeologist who uses his special abilities to uncover Etruscan artifacts, although he does this illegally with his group of friends. Together, they are known as “Il Tombaroli,” or Tomb Robbers. Arthur has an ulterior motive for his criminal behavior: he is searching for his lost love, Beniamina (Yle Vianello).

Arthur holds the head of the goddess statue.

From Neon.

Living in a small shack under the care of Flora (Isabella Rossellini), Arthur meets Italia (Carol Duarte). Italia is Flora’s singing student, though she is treated more like a maid by Flora and her daughters. She has her own secrets, just like Arthur, and the two become friends. When Italia discovers what Arthur and his friends do to make money, she is disappointed that they disturb the tombs and souls of the dead. Italia is kicked out of Flora’s home when her two children are found living in the old house. Arthur starts a brief relationship with Italia, but his journey to rediscover his lost love still obsesses him.

La Chimera, filmed in Italy, is really a story of a magician searching for an entrance into the underworld. While La Chimera’s plot is simple, the subtext becomes literal by the end of the film and through Alice Rohrwacher’s camera and direction. Blended are memories and dreams, seeping through the cracks of Arthur’s reality. Ghosts of the living and dead haunt Arthur along with the tombs he excavates. Songs become prophecies. La Chimera is a fairy tale brought into the real world – reminding us that art is the magic that gives life meaning.

Arthur and his friends excavating in the countryside.

From Neon.

Rohrwacher’s camera and the images she crafts for the screen reveal her purpose. Shot beautifully with a soft focus on Arthur’s face and the artifacts he unearths, the camera lingers in the in-between spaces, not telling us what is going on so much as revealing the amazement at Arthur’s dowsing rod magic. We are flipped upside down when his magic finds treasure – old art and talismans buried with the dead. But it’s not all that he’s searching for. Arthur and Flora, Beniamina’s mother, are searching for her: but how can you find someone who is dead?

Arthur’s answer to this reaches back across time and myth to stories like Orpheus and Eurydice. He is searching for the red string connecting them through life and death, through this world and the endless possibilities of the next. His “job” and the artifacts are just one way of looking for the impossible. The act of excavating becomes a material ritual for Arthur and his quest for Beniamina but is also a way for Rohrwacher and her audiences to understand the excavation of a person and a story. With each tomb dug out of the ground and each treasure unearthed we learn more about the people from a time and place no longer existing. While the era is over, humanity and the core human condition have endured. Humans will continue searching through the past for the things we’ve lost.

Italia and Arthur stand together.

From Neon.

I love La Chimera a lot. It’s rare to find a film that feels (and arguably, is) a ritual or spell of cinematic magic.  Watching La Chimera in theaters felt like I had become part of a magic ritual, going back in time to an era of 70s cinema where men wore dirty linen suits. I believed in Arthur’s journey so much that the ending (No spoilers!!! Just go see it!) has played inside my head on a loop for days. Alice Rohrwacher’s films all engage with elements of magical realism, of a world that looks and sounds like ours but treats magic as something natural. Coupled with some of the most breathtaking sets and locations I’ve seen in a recent film, La Chimera is an immediate must-see. 




I was dazzled by LA CHIMERA, a story haunted by chasms of time yet soothed by the love felt on-screen. See it in theaters!

Sophia Schrock
Sophia (they/them) currently lives in Jersey City, NJ. They are passionate about queer cinema, horror, anything gothic, and their beloved cat Salem.