December 7, 2023 – This is a movie about Arthur (played by Josh O'Connor of “God's Own Country”) a grave robber who is interested in something beyond the artifacts from ancient Etruscan tombs he finds and sells on the black market.
Josh is popular with local grave robbers, who all call him “The Englishman.” As an Englishman among Italians, he is an outsider, but he is accepted because of his uncanny skill and finding hidden Etruscan tombs. He seems to have a kind of supernatural connection to old tombs. He uses a diving rod to find them, but more than that, he seems to have some kind of mystic physical connection, which causes him to faint when he finds a tomb.
As the movie opens, Josh is shown on a train returning from jail where he was held for his grave robbing crimes. He feels betrayed by the local grave robbers, who are anxious for his profitable return to their fold.
Recurring dream sequences in the film and various other hints dropped in the story indicate that Josh seeks a hidden pathway in a tomb to the realm of the dead, where he hopes to be reunited with his lost love, Beniamina (Yile Vianello of “La Bella Estate”).
For some reason, Josh is admired by an influential, disabled woman, Flora (Isabella Rossellini of “Joy”) who lives in a vast, crumbling estate with a pretty, tone-deaf singing student/servant, Italia (played by Carol Duarte of “Invisible Life”). Flora's relatives cluster around, hoping to sell the estate and ship Flora off to a nursing home.
A gang of low-rent grave robbers tags along with Josh on his tomb raids, seeking riches. Josh is ambivalent about selling the artifacts he finds. On the one hand, he needs the money, but on the other hand, artifacts are not what he's really after. During one of his fainting spells, he hits the mother lode, a previously undisturbed tomb loaded with treasure, but a slicker, better-funded team of robbers tricks them, and steals the treasure.
The two competing tomb raiding teams confront each other on a fancy yacht, haggling over the price of a valuable statue that was snatched away from Josh and his friends. There, Josh does something that makes him an outcast again. He joins other outcasts, headed by Italia, who has been kicked out of Flora's house. Italia does not approve of grave robbing.
This is a well-acted film with some interesting visual choices by director Alice Rohrwacher and cinematographer Hélène Louvart, but the plot, co written by Rohrwacher, Carmela Covino and Marco Pettenello, is highly predictable, with few surprises. One scene, on the yacht, which is supposed to be surprising, was totally obvious. This movie telegraphs its punches throughout, and lands few dramatic blows, but it is also an amiable romp of misfit rogues at the same time.
The story is a balance between the hard-headed realism of the local grave robbers trying to steal and sell goods, and Josh, who seeks a mystical connection with Beniamina. This tension continues right to the very end of the film. The ending can be interpreted in very different ways. This is a very slow-moving film. The heist elements work better than the spiritual quest elements, and the local rogues are more interesting as characters than is the frustrated mystic. This film rates a C+.
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