(H, E, L, NN, SS, VV) Humanism & slight environmentalism; 8 obscenities; one short but relatively graphic depiction of sex; and, very brief but jolting views of wartime casualties (sailors frozen in and under ice & a disemboweled airman).
Spanning more than three decades in the life of a young Eskimo, MAP OF THE HUMAN HEART blends epic and intimacy, romance and heartbreak, naturalistic dialogue and dream scenes of warfare, as it marches to its own rhythm and carries the audience along until the final few minutes. Then an unsatisfying "Life is tough, then you die" sentiment takes over, and the film's unsavory elements--scattered obscenities, a graphic sex scene and brief but jolting visions of carnage--now seem to have been endured for naught.
MAP OF THE HUMAN HEART is an intimate epic, an improbable tale and an offbeat blend of naturalistic relationships and dream scenes of warfare. The story covers 35 years in the life of an Eskimo, Avik, whom we meet at an arctic oil station in 1965. Conning a map maker out of some liquor, he tells the story of three decades of struggle. As a boy in 1931, he is befriended by Walter Russell. When Russell discovers he has tuberculosis, he flies him to a hospital in Montreal. Completely dislocated, Avik eventually finds a friend in another patient, the orphan Albertine. From here the tale leaps forward a decade to: the discovery of a frozen German submarine crew under the ice, Avik’s career as an aerial photographer aboard a B-24 during WWII, his reuniting with Albertine–and that’s only a fraction of the story. Romance (unfortunately, including graphic fornication), warfare, quirky conversations, and the bombing of Dresden all blend surprisingly well–until the final scenes. When we return to Avik, a “Life is tough, then you die” finale ends things on a sour note.
For all of its originality, MAP OF THE HUMAN HEART lets us down in the final reel with a resounding thud–and without a sense that we have learned much more about the geography of the human heart than poor Avik.