The Lost City of Z, and they serve as one key to this strange, sprawling, majestic film. In adapting the 2009 nonfiction book about the search for a fabled city in the Amazon, Gray has taken out much of the actual journalism, layering of perspective and even some of the mystery that New Yorker writer David Grann brought to the material. Grann’s book is at least partly concerned with a contemporary investigation into the fate of the obsessed British explorer Percy Fawcett, who disappeared with his son in the Amazon in 1925; the film, less so. But in opting to tell a more linear story about the life of Fawcett, Gray has replaced all that with something else, something very much his own: a look at how society trains us to know our place in it, and how a confrontation with the unknown can completely upend our understanding of the world.
“I’ve been trained for this.” Those words — or some variation — come up several times throughout James Gray’s