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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Lost City of Z

 DIRECTOR:  James Gray  LEAD CAST:  Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus Macfadyen)  SCREENWRITER:  James Gray  PRODUCER:  Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Anthony Katagas, James Gray, Dale Armin Johnson  EDITOR:  John Axelrad, Lee Haugen  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Christopher Spelman  GENRE:  Biographical adventure, historical drama  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Darius Khondji  DISTRIBUTOR:  Collosal Mega Films Co.  LOCATION:  Colombia and Ireland  RUNNING TIME:  141 minutes
Technical assessment:  4
Moral assessment:  3
CINEMA rating: V14
British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) sets out in 1906 to survey Bolivia’s dense rainforests. With corporal Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson), he finds relics of ancient pottery that convince him that deep within the Amazon jungle is a civilization far more advanced than high-brow London society can acknowledge. He calls it the Lost City of Z. Fawcett and Costin return to Bolivia a second time to locate the city, but their mission is sabotaged by self-directed biologist James Murray (Angus Macfadyen). On his third attempt in 1923, Fawcett is joined by his son Jack (Tom Holland). They never return, but Nina (Sienna Miller) does not lose hope that her husband and son are alive, even as she shows proof that someone saw them living with the Amazon people.
Based on David Grann’s book of the same title, The Lost City of Z is a cinematic experience of idyllic meadows in Ireland and dramatic indoor shots and closeups. With good lighting, the scenes become almost like impressionist paintings. The magic is lost when the film takes the audience to the recesses of the Amazon. The supposed emerald greens and glistening forests, even the ancient pottery that was central to the story, failed to enthrall and convince the audience that there might indeed be a Lost City of Z. The script compensates, and is outstanding for unraveling the internal conflicts of the characters: of Fawcett’s desire to restore the glory of his family’s name, his faith in the existence of an ancient and advanced civilization frowned upon by England’s intellectual aristocracy, of Nina’s struggles to transcend the stereotypical role of a devoted wife and mother as she articulates her desire to be part of the expedition herself.

Yet even with a laudable script, or perhaps because of it, The Lost City of Z fails to stir our hearts, but as a purely intellectual experience it challenges us to examine our own prejudices. To what extent are we prepared to abandon our preconceived notions, much of them subliminal, of racial supremacy? That the film is told from the point of view of a white man and very little if at all is conveyed about or by the Amazon tribes gives us pause. It mirrors how modern society silences the poor in the periphery, quite opposite the preferential option for the poor that we as Catholics should vow to pursue. We also shouldn’t miss the centrality of marriage and family as drivers of one’s choices in life. The film illuminates this issue so well, showing how Fawcett is at once driven by personal ambitions and lofty ideals, and his son Jack, in rage, questions his father’s convictions. Immensely relevant in today’s Filipino diasporas mushrooming in various parts of the world, where people go in search of better jobs. Overseas Filipinos are our modern day Fawcetts. The Lost City of Z makes us think, and as a tool for introspection, it achieves its purpose. 

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