Percy Fawcett and the Lost City of Z

MV5BODM2MDAxMDg0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzQ5MzU4MTI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_The film the Lost City of Z tells the story of Major Percy Fawcett, an explorer whose life had a weird connection with Nancy’s. He had set out in 1925 with his son and a friend of his son’s to search for the ‘lost city’ and they vanished. Various expeditions were launched to try to find them, or to find out what happened to them, but none succeeded. In 1932 Peter Fleming, brother of James Bond creator, answered a newspaper advertisement for ‘two more guns’ to take part in a new quest to find out what had become of him. There were rumours he had been killed, but other rumours that he had gone native and founded a cult in the jungle. Fleming persuaded his friend Roger Pettigrew to go along with him and they were gone for four months.
The real Major Fawcett in pipe-smoking manly explorer pose:Unknown

But Nancy had been in love with Roger, though she never said it in so many words, and he had seemed to care for her – but when he came back after all his adventures he ignored her almost completely. And by then, in his absence, she had hooked up with a small, slightly lost-seeming young poet called Durrell.

What was heartbreak for her was a gift for travel writing: Fleming wrote Brazil Adventure, a brilliant, funny and infuriating account of their trip up and down the Amazon. They seem to have treated even life and death situations as a huge joke – that spirit of Boys Own Adventure that led to so many disasters and is now pretty much completely vanished.

John Hemming in the Spectator this week says the film, and the book it is based on, is a nonsense – and he should know. Far from being a hero, Fawcett was, apparently a nutter and a racist and totally incompetent. If you can divorce it from real life, the film is quite fun – and his side kick is brilliant (turns out it was Robert Pattison, who has been called ‘the sexiest man alive’ – not in this film, just a cracking good actor). But the ending annoyed me. Given that precisely what did happen to them has never been properly explained, a walking off into the unknown, three dots kind of ending (like that brilliant finale to Gods and Men) would have been much more satisfying rather than the obligatory Hollywood father-son schmalz ‘I love you Dad,’ – ‘I love you too, son,’ so now we can all die happy even though we are about to be slaughtered and probably eaten.

Also I would merrily have any script writer who lets a mysterious gypsy woman pronounce to our hero, ‘Eet ees your destineee!’ silenced with a poison dart immediately.

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