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Film of the week Tripping in the afterlife

The Star's critic MARIA DUARTE recommends a wild foray into magic realism 

La Chimera (15)
Directed by Alice Rohrwacher


SUSPEND your disbelief and immerse yourself in this wild and surreal yet magical cinematic ride in pursuit of the unobtainable and something that cannot be grasped, La Chimera. 
Co-written and directed by Alice Rohrwacher, it is chimeric in structure, being both burlesque and whimsical in tone, as it moves from drama to comedy to fantasy adventure. 
Set in 1980s Italy, the film follows Arthur (the phenomenal Josh O’Connor), a foreigner, who is just out of prison and reunites with his band of tombaroli, a gang of grave robbers who raid archaeological sites and tombs and make off with the artefacts and the treasures they unearth inside, which they later fence. 
O’Connor, fresh from Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers, delivers a mesmerising performance in Italian as a fish-out-of-water character whose origins we can’t exactly work out but who is still stricken by grief. He is mourning the loss of the love of his life Beniamina (Yile Yara Vianello) but he is briefly distracted by Italia (Carol Duarte – but no relation to me!) who is Flora’s (Isabella Rossellini) intern/maid. 
His chimera, however, is Beniamina, Flora’s daughter, whom he decides to find by searching everywhere including inside the earth and travelling to the afterlife as Rohrwacher uses magical realism to transport you into different dimensions. 
It is completely bonkers but the charisma of these colourful characters who are each pursuing their own chimera keeps you invested. 
Plus Rossellini who gives an effortless masterclass in acting. Her scenes with O’Connor and their joyous repartees, mostly in Italian, are the highlight of a film which, like a chimera itself, is very difficult to define.
There is a great deal of warmth and love between these characters as they share their grief. Arthur leans deep into his tortured and angry soul. 

La Chimera isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste, but if you can suspend your scepticism and be open minded it will be worth it as O’Connor proves a revelation. 

Out in cinemas tomorrow.


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