Tropic Sprockets / La chimera

By Ian Brockway

Alice Rohrwacher (The Pupils) strikes again with her offbeat trademark tone in “La chimera.” Though the film underscores its fanciful edge well, its wandering dispassionate attitude might not be to all tastes. That said, the narrative retains an eccentric and personal brand of magical realism that is enough to hold interest, even though one may scratch his or her head. [Showtimes at]

Arthur, an ordinary man (Josh O’ Connor) with a violent and argumentative streak is relentlessly ridiculed on a train. Arthur falls in with a band of robbers who ransack cemeteries for valuables and antiquities. Arthur can discern where the tombs are located by walking here and there using a divining rod.

The band of mercenaries are alternately respectful and insulting to Arthur and it is impossible to guess how the motley crew of ne’er-do-wells will behave in regard to him. One day they are mean and derisive, but on the next they are kind and complementary. No matter the condition and turn of events, Arthur moves forward, only caring about his mysterious lost love, Beniamina (Yile Vianello).

Arthur walks on, passing house after house and person after person. The people that Arthur encounters seldom seem to address him directly. The others overlook him, and he is often ignored at a party featuring great joy and merriment. Tunnel after tunnel is exhaustively searched frequently with little return.

Flora (Isabella Rossellini) is the head of the family full of stories regarding the enigmatic Beniamina.

The statues revealed have a numinous and eerie power bordering on the occult. Although they appear inanimate, the sculptures possess a human presence.

The only reservation is the pace of the film which is languid and trance inducing. Sundry events flirt with ennui. Yet to the film’s credit, the story’s mystical properties come to the fore and Arthur himself is a riddle.

Strange and quotidian yet cosmic, “La chimera” edges into soporific movement only to surprise and keep you guessing with juxtapositions that are similar to dreams.

Write Ian at [email protected].

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