Map of the Human Heart: Vincent Ward’s Romantic Epic

Vincent Ward’s Map of the Human Heart is an ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to make a David Lean type of film: an epic romance placed against magnificent historical and geographical landscapes.

However, as in Dragon, Jason Scott Lee endows his role with such magnetic charisma that he makes the movie more appealing than it has right to be,

Spanning three decades and several continents, the narrative begins when a child named Avik is taken from his Eskimo village to a Canadian hospital for treatment of tuberculosis. There, Avik falls for Albertine, a half Native-American girl, but they are cruelly separated by the hospital’s nun (Jeanne Moreau).

Decades pass by and Avik (now played by Jason Scott Lee) becomes a pilot for England’s Royal Air Force. As fate would have it, he meets again Albertine (La Femme Nikita’s Anne Parillaud), who is not only wearing uniform herself, but turns out to be the very woman who examines the photographs Avik has been sending. In the film’s last episode, set in the l960s, Avik gets to meet the daughter he never knew he had.

Directed and co-written by Ward, a New Zealander, Map of the Human Heart tries to say interesting things about a doomed interracial love and the fateful, unpredictable nature of human encounters. The movie also stresses the price paid for wishing to assimilate into mainstream society; Albertine marries a white mapmaker (Patrick Bergin), though it is clear she has always loved Avik.

Map of the Human Heart is a film about the stronger power of memories and fantasies when contrasted with the real and mundane life. Unfortunately, there are many boring–and silly–moments to endure, which is too bad, for epic romantic sagas are very seldom made these days.