May 7, 2023

Director Notes: La Chimera (2023)

Everyone has their own Chimera, something they try to achieve but never manage to find. For the band of tombaroli, thieves of ancient grave goods and archaeological wonders, the Chimera means redemption from work and the dream of easy wealth. For Arthur, the Chimera looks like the woman he lost, Beniamina. To find her, Arthur challenges the invisible, searches everywhere, goes inside the earth – in search of the door to the afterlife of which myths speak. In an adventurous journey between the living and the dead, between forests and cities, between celebrations and solitudes, the intertwined destinies of these characters unfold, all in search of the Chimera.

An Underground World

scene from film La Chimera

“Where I grew up it was common to hear stories of secret finds, clandestine digs and mysterious adventures. You only had to stay at the bar until late at night or stop at a country inn to hear about so-and-so who’d uncovered a Villanovan tomb with his tractor, or someone else who, digging by the necropolis one night, had discovered a gold necklace so long it could go all the way round a house. Or someone else still who’d got rich in Switzerland with the sale of an Etruscan vase he’d found in his garden.

Stories of Skeletons and Ghosts, of Getaways and Darkness.

scene from movie La Chimera

Life around me was made up of different parts: one solar and contemporary and busy, another nocturnal and mysterious and secret. There were many layers and we all experienced them: you only had to dig up a few centimeters of soil and the fragment of an artefact made by someone else’s hands would appear among the pebbles. What era was it looking at me from? You only had to go into the barns and wine cellars round about to realize that they had once been something else: Etruscan tombs, maybe, or shelters from bygone ages, or holy sites. The proximity of sacred and profane, of death and life, that characterized the years in which I was growing up has always fascinated me and given a measure to my way of seeing. This is why I decided at last to make a film that tells this layered story, this relationship between two worlds, the last part in a triptych about a local area whose attention is focused on one central question: what should it do with its past? As some grave-robbers say, down our way it’s the dead that give life.”

Poor Grave-robbers

people robbing a grave in film La Chimera

“The Chimera is the story of the ups and downs of a gang of tombaroli, or grave-robbers, violators of Etruscan tombs and peddlers of antiques to local fences. It is set in the 1980s when anyone who decided to become a tombarolo – crossing the tacit dividing line between the sacred and the violable – did so to turn the past around, to become new, something else. The tombaroli were, unquestionably, strong, youthful – and damned.

They didn’t belong to the past and they weren’t the sons of their fathers, men who had grown up beside those ancient tombs without ever violating them. They were the sons of themselves. The world belonged to them: they could enter what were regarded as taboo places, smash vases and steal votive offerings, and sell them on. They considered them as nothing but museum pieces, old junk. No longer sacred objects.

The naivety of the people who had buried the stuff made them laugh.

Indeed, they wondered how it was actually possible for a people to leave all that wealth underground for souls… But never mind souls – they wanted to enjoy the gold themselves, and how!

The Etruscans dedicated their art, their craftsmanship and their resources to the invisible.

For the grave-robbers, the invisible simply didn’t exist.”

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