‘La Chimera’ (2024) Review: The Grieving Tomb Raider

Nuha Hassan
3 min readApr 3, 2024

Alice Rohrwacher’s La Chimera weaves the delicate journey between life and death. Starring Josh O’Connor, the film follows a British man wandering the streets of Italy and working alongside grave robbers, which is illegal. The group is obsessed with finding an ancient artefact buried in the tombs waiting to be found by the men. Along with finding the artefact, the grieving tomb raider searches for his deceased lover, but he has to look for her between the mysterious stories of the afterlife and myth intertwine.

The film opens with Arthur (O’Connor), newly released from jail from an unknown stint, as he grumbles and complains in the streets of Italy. He stays with Flora (Isabella Rossellini), his former lover’s mother’s semi-ruined villa. Flora patiently awaits the return of his daughter, Beniamina (Yle Vianello), while the rest of her daughters steal the remaining furniture and wish to send her to the nursing home. The matriarchal figure teaches Italia (Carol Duarte) classical singing, even though she is tone-deaf. She does chores around the house and helps out Flora in exchange for the tuition, while also taking care of her two young children, who live in the villa unbeknownst to the matriarch.

Arthur returns to his grave robber friends and digs new artefacts frozen in time under the ground. He battles the superstitious beliefs of digging expeditions in the community but cannot leave behind the mysterious statues. As he yearns to return to Beniamina’s side, he finds himself at a crossroads with the past and present.

This dramatic Italian heist movie is about the romantic yearning between Arthur and Beniamina, also his romantic connection with Italia. Beniamina is only acknowledged through dreamy flashbacks with Flora being the only character who understands Arthur’s closeness with her daughter. The audience doesn’t know much about Beniamina. However, unlike Italia, who seemed reluctant about Arthur and his friends’ hobby of digging graves and feeling superstitious about it, Beniamina was the only person to understand it. Beniamina’s absence is like a spell that Arthur cannot get away from her. Her presence is everywhere.

The search for the Chimera is a secret that unfolds Arthur’s destiny. His desire to be reunited with Beniamina puts him in a precarious situation. Rohrwacher portrays the magical journey of Arthur’s fantasies as a distraction from the real world around him. He neither cares for his friends nor his well-being. He’s just a brooding presence in everybody’s lives.

La Chimera observes the lines drawn between the dead and the living. Who has the right to celebrate it and tarnish the memories of the past? It’s a question that presents itself in the story through the characters of Flora, Beniamina, and the Chimera. It is an unpredictable and rather unchallenging story that depicts the real nature of Arthur’s secrets and temper. One mistake and the rest of the demeanour slips for everyone to see the true layers of deception.

Here are some reading materials to learn about the genocide and ethnic cleansing in Palestine and the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement:

Decolonise Palestine

Books about Palestine on Verso Books

Books about Palestine on Haymarket Books

The Free Palestine Library

More Palestine reading materials

Read about the BDS movement