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  Map of the Human Heart Love And Bullets (And Bombs)
Year: 1993
Director: Vincent Ward
Stars: Jason Scott Lee, Anne Parillaud, Patrick Bergin, Robert Joamie, Annie Galipeau, Clotilde Corau, John Cusack, Jeanne Moreau, Ben Mendelsohn, Jerry Snell, Jayko Pitseolak, Monique Spaziani, Anik Matern, Charlotte Coleman, Gordon Masten, Michelle Turmel
Genre: War, Romance, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Arctic, 1965, and a mapmaker (John Cusack) has arrived there to chart the landscape even more precisely than had been done before, but as he sits in the base there, a local Eskimo enters and begins to quiz him about his work. He is Avik (Jason Scott Lee), and he has quite a tale to tell even if the mapmaker is not interested in hearing it, so helps himself to whisky and ploughs ahead with his life story, beginning with the time when he was a child in the thirties and met another mapmaker, Walter Russell (Patrick Bergin), who happened to be in the region and changed his life...

Although not in an entirely beneficial manner, no matter how much that Walter meant well. Map of the Human Heart was one of those grand scale epics that cult New Zealand director Vincent Ward found the world was not quite ready for, and in this case his two hour cut was shortened and offered a more optmistic ending, though the downbeat nature of what was actually happening did not quite eclipse the spiritual cheer that producers the Weinsteins had insisted upon emphasising. We were really in doomed love affair territory, and with those potentially sentimental trappings we could have been subjected to the equivalent of Mills & Boon brought to life.

There were a few of these swooning examples out unashamed romanticism around in the nineties, and if they were wed to an epic of some sort then so much the better, not to mention a reason to bring a lump to the throat of the audience before the end credits rolled. If these efforts tended towards the sappy in spite of themselves - especially the ones which, like this, had big ideas to back up their romance - then at least we had some kind of spectacle to guarantee something worth watching for, and in Ward we had a director who was never shy about appealing to the eye in strikingly ambitious imagery, of which there was a plethora here, more than justifying its existence.

It takes two to tango in a love story, and sometimes it takes three for that old reliable, the love triangle, so along with Avik and Walter there is Albertine, played by Anne Parillaud as an adult. But for some of the time we see Avik and Albertine as children where they meet in a ward of a hospital when Walter saves the young boy's life by recognising he has tuberculosis, so takes him to Montreal. Along with a degree of rough and tumble, the kids grow very affectionate, kindling feelings that will last their whole lives, yet the head nun (Jeanne Moreau) sees their friendship will do more harm than good if Avik infects Albertine again, and splits them up, leaving the boy with nothing but an x-ray of her to remember her by (the map of the title?).

After that lengthy set up, we get to the main section where they meet again years later, except Walter and Albertine are now a couple, though that doesn't prevent him bringing Avik to the war in Europe, where he becomes an expert bomber navigator, getting the map motif in there once again. Now reunited, the hero and heroine start a full on affair where they get up to such business as making love on top of a barrage balloon in the English countryside or canoodling inside the roof of the Albert Hall as a doodlebug blows up nearby, again maintaining that epic sweep to the narrative that renders the romance as splendiferous as Ward could possibly muster. Yet in doing so he neglected the intimate quality that was necessary to have us wholly relate to the lovers' plight, so where he could get away with staging the bombing of Dresden as an example of Avik's self-proclaimed bad luck, otherwise you couldn't quite invest enough emotionally in light of its essential pessimism. But for attempting this sumptuous scale, well, that was a feat in itself. Music by Gabriel Yared.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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