*Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Lost City of Z, based on the non-fiction book of the same name*
The toxic allure of the Amazon is, on the surface, completely understandable. Covering 7 million square kilometres, the endless sprawl of vegetation and mystery is an adventurer's utopia, even to this day. In 1925, that same, palpable allure took control of Colonel Percy Fawcett, as he entered the rainforest, never to return again.
The Lost City of Z is a larger-than-life adventure story that captures the obsession of Fawcett, and his desire to discover a lost civilization that was never proven to exist. Based on David Grann's best selling novel of the same name, although the film is faithful to its source, there's one key moment where fiction takes control: The ending.
The Lost City of Z ending faces a peculiar challenge, as no one truly knows how the story ends; Fawcett and his son Jack were never seen again, without the slightest hint toward their disappearance. Explored below with the same gusto of Fawcett himself, here's how the conclusion took inspiration from true events, and fleshed out the rest with the beauty of fiction.
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How 'The Lost City Of Z' Ending Compares To The True Story
The ambiguity and painful lack of resolution surrounding British explorer Fawcett's demise (or salvation) is poetically tragic, only adding to the attraction of true story. Here was a man consumed by the desire to explore, returning to the Amazon numerous times in a ritualistic form of adventurer's natal homing, as if it was a return to his natural birthplace.
By 1925, Fawcett — played by #CharlieHunnam in the movie — was an established explorer who had made numerous expeditions to the Amazon. On each return, his curiosity toward the mythical city of Z raised higher and higher, stoked by findings of ancient ruins. For his last trip, he took his 21-year-old son, Jack Fawcett (#TomHolland), and Jack's friend, Raleigh Rimell (who, perhaps unfairly, wasn't included in the final film.)
The threesome disappeared without a trace, last seen in the region known as Dead Horse Camp. All of the potential outcomes of the journey were equally gruesome: Had they been kidnapped or killed by the violent and often cannibalistic tribes? Had the unforgiving, energy sapping and lethal conditions of the rainforest got the better of them?
Their disappearance sparked a wave of fascination over the years, causing streams of explorers, with a range of abilities, to retrace their steps. At least 13 different groups were documented to have entered the Amazon, following Fawcett's proposed (and deliberately obscured) route. These expeditions rarely ended well — it is estimated around 100 people lost their lives.
As uncertainty increased, Percy's loyal wife, Nina Fawcett, reflected on her mental state while confiding to a close friend. As covered verbatim in the movie, she said:
"My heart is lacerated by the horrible accounts I'm obliged to read and my imagination conjures up gruesome pictures of what might have happened. It takes all my strength of will to push these horrors out of my thoughts, the brutal wear and tear is great."
How 'The Lost City Of Z' Interprets The Disappearance
In the movie adaptation of #TheLostCityOfZ, Percy and his son Jack are suddenly surrounded by an Amazonian tribe as they decisively hack their way through the thick foliage of the jungle. They are taken hostage. Later, the closing scene shows the pair held aloft by the masses of tribesman, carried toward what seems to be the mystical city of Z.
The ending is ambiguous and has celestial undertones. The dizzying furore of tribal ritual, and the significance of Fawcett's dogged and delirious journey ends with him being lifted in a sacrificial, divine manner, hint that Z is a land that lies somewhere between life and death, between one reality and another, a fourth dimension that Percy and Jack discovered — at a cost.
The visceral interpretation takes inspiration from the book, which highlights the growing belief Fawcett had developed over the years spent agonizing over his project. This was no longer a destination, but instead a mythology that transformed the idea of Z into a form of Mecca, a holy city beyond this world. In his book, Grann wrote:
By 1924, Fawcett had filled his papers with reams of delirious writings about the end of the world and about a mystical Atlantean kingdom, which resembled the Garden of Eden.
Fawcett is said to have followed a spiritual objective, with the hope to "attain transcendence." In his original article in The New Yorker, Grann wrote that devoted Fawcett followers began to believe the adventurer had achieved his goal and discovered Z, but instead of a city, it was "a portal to an alternate reality."
What really happened still isn't known, and probably never will be. As Grann, the author of the book, retraced Fawcett's steps, he encountered a tribe who claimed that the group were probably killed by Indians. That scenario is the most logical explanation, but The Lost City of Z, and Fawcett's attempt to uncover the ancient site, is a true story that makes you want to believe in miracles.
How did you interpret the ending of The Lost City Of Z?