The Lost City of Z

The Lost city of zThis haunting film about destiny is both beautiful and poignant. Charlie Hunnam is the British Major Percy Fawcett who “has chosen his ancestors badly” as one wag puts it, and he is determined to put his own reputation to rights. The Royal Geographical Society selects him to map the Amazon River area of Brazil/Bolivia etc. He sets out with a small trusted crew (Robert Pattinson as Henry Costin) and finds the “source” in several tumbling waterfalls.

Back home again, he is lauded as a successful explorer. In a riveting scene, he expounds upon his feat declaring that he has discovered the remains of a lost city (shards of pottery, etc.). But he is hooted down by his colleagues who decry the idea of any “civilization” ever being possible in such a jungle. To prove they are wrong, he insists on returning to the site and a new expedition is mounted.

These trips are fraught with attacks from native peoples, insects, heat, various skin and other diseases and the latest one, problems with an overweight, self-indulgent man who claims Polar trips to his name. He is about to jeopardize the entire crew when Fawcett sends him “home” on a donkey with an Indian guide. (Unfortunately he gets home and bedevils Fawcett at a RGS hearing and Fawcett quits the society in anger.)

In the middle of all this, there is World War I and Fawcett commands a battalion that with some losses, manages to “win the day.” He is promoted to Lieutenant Colonel for his bravery and leadership, and he lives to “win another day”… in the Amazon.

Yes, there is a wife, Nina, and she is played by Sienna Miller. She is strong, devoted, fecund (there get to be three children regardless of how long he’s gone) and although she wanted desperately to “explore” with her husband, probably thought better of it when she heard what he went through when he got home. There was an amusing review decrying the lack of “women’s rights” in Victorian England which led me to wonder how many women were in the location crew that filmed the picture. Surely they didn’t wear long skirts and a hat.

On his own now, he is possessed by images of the “lost city”, of the romance of the jungle, of his feelings for the Indians whom he believes are capable of a far more civilized world than the British give them credit for. So he sets out again, this time with his son who has become enamored of his father’s passion and wishes to share it.

The ending is beautiful, ethereal and religious (not in the usual sense) and totally unforgettable. As a matter of fact, one can reflect upon it forever because it was filmed so gently, and because it just might have happened that way.

At the very end there are a couple of paragraphs attesting to the fact that explorers have indeed found evidence of a Lost City – roads, structures, objects, etc. – in the Amazon jungle which gives truth to Fawcett’s dream of “Z.”

Writer/Director James Gray spoke recently about filming over a couple of years which was what it took to achieve such veritas. It was in stages dangerous, disease ridden, clammy, hot, miserable and infuriatingly uncomfortable for everyone, but the observer does not feel this stress. Only the total beauty and reality of nature: its density, obstruction, violence and wildness come through completely in the filming as the party progresses through the jungle, the river and the piranhas. Not only James Gray but the entire crew should be cited for an Oscar.

Barbara Tober



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Posted: 04/28/17 by Doug Anderson

Having recently read “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus,” I developed a greater understanding of the scope of devastation done to those living here by those who came from Western Europe. It was then even more interesting to watch “The Lost City of Z,” which deals with a different part of the story.

Performances are uniformly excellent, pace is just right, film is gorgeous and the story is classic adventure/exploration set between 1905 and 1925. Much of the film takes place in South America, some during WWI in France and some in London.

Yes, the film is long…but we were engaged the whole time.

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