Map of the Human Heart: ”My life’s a map. Map of death”’

Year: 1993
Directed by Vincent Ward
Produced by Tim Bevan and Vincent Ward
Written by Vincent Ward and Louis Nowra
Cast: Patrick Bergin,Anne Parillaud, Jason Scott Lee, Ben Mendelsohn, Robert Joamie, Annie Galipeau, Jeanne Moreau,Clotilde Courau and John Cusack

The forbidden romance sparked between a young Inuit boy and a young Métis girl changes the destinies of their lives forever and tests the social boundaries of their society.

If someone’s life is truly a map, you could probably only tell in retrospective. It is only in retrospect that we get a clear trajectory of our lives. The consequences of the paths and choices are layout before us like in a map when we view our lives retrospectively. Appropriately, the main story of the film comes to us in one big flashback. So, Avik recounting his life is dramatically nostalgic and melancholic. The overload of nostalgia and regret might threaten to ruin the film with a burdensome melodrama. But, the feelings stirred by Avik’s heartfelt nostalgia and regret is authentic.

It is authentic because Avik’s story confronts the social boundaries of its time period yet it feels distinctly personal. Avik’s story is a man trapped by the society he was born in and the society imposed by Westerners. His happiness is restrained by these two forces. Avik’s romance with Albertine is a way for him to escape these forces although Albertine herself is willing to bend to society’s prejudices for own sake. That is the divide that propels the primary conflict.

The personal story doesn’t get lost in an attempt to be a sprawling historical epic yet doesn’t treat its setting as mere window dressing just for ambiance. Vincent Ward’s solid direction succeeds at this tough balancing act. Vincent succeeds mainly because he keeps his characters small players in a wider historical context. The wider historical context informs all of the characters and their personal issues while keeping the focus centered on the personal drama. Vincent Ward’s keen awareness of inserting quiet moments at the opportune time contributes to a sense of a naturalistic undertone and the skillful use of the on-location scenes as well. Yet, there is a faint feeling of an idyllic charm. Which the childhood segment really typifies and there is a dark surrealism during the final bombing run. These two styles towards the end coexist side by side for an ending that is heart wrenching yet heartwarming.

A forbidden romance that is affectionately tender. It has an innate historicity that is never compromised to produce an authentic and powerful love story. Vincent Ward’s strong cinematic direction further elevates the film. Wards connects his film with powerful naturalistic imagery but leaving some room for idyllic charm.

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