Sunday, September 21, 2008

Map of the Human Heart


Vincent Ward's Map of the Human Heart (1993) has as much texture and complexity as a novel. It deals with so many things, there's almost too much to absorb in one sitting.

It may be partly due to his New Zealand background, but Ward's vision is far-flung and interesting and often comes off like a vivid and riveting dream. He works with time, space, race and cultural clash in a way that includes Inuit, French, First Nation and English Canada, mapping, the Second World War in Europe, the British Empire, balloons and zeppelins, airplanes, mirrors, the absence of parents, and the firebombing of Dresden from the perspectives of both bombers and bombed. And it's all held nicely together through the exploration of the relationships between Avik (half Inuit, half Euro), his Inuit grandmother, Walter Russell (surveyor and airman, archetypal representative of the Empire), and Albertine, (Métis, or half Euro and half First Nation or Indian).*

In brief: Walter arrives in Nunatuk (Nunavut), Avik is dazzled; Walter takes Avik to a Catholic Québécois TB sanitarium in Montréal for treatment, where he meets Albertine, also being treated; Albertine is sent to Ottawa and Avik back to his grandmother's people. Avik is seen as tainted for having spent too much time among the Euros. Walter returns. WWII has broken out, and there are U-boats in the area. Avik eventually joins the Royal Candian Air Force. He goes to Europe, where further complications arise when he meets up with Albertine as an adult. Culminates with the 1945 bombing of Dredsen, a final return to Canada, and ends in the 1960s, with a pretty beat-up looking Avik in the foreground and pumpjacks sucking oil through the Canadian tundra in the background. Plus another scene after that . . .

I'd heard for years that Map of the Human Heart was worth seeing, and now I, too, can say -- it is. If you're a real depressed type, though, you may want to kill yourself by the time it's over. As of this posting, I am still not of that type.

Today's Rune: Signals.

*Note: Probably a nod to Marcel Proust's classic seven volume novel, À la recherche du temps perdu / In Search of Lost Time / Remembrance of Things Past (1913-1927), given that Marcel, the narrator in Proust's novel, has a similarly haunting relationship with another Albertine and the whole movie has the same kind of feel.

4 comments:

JR's Thumbprints said...

I've been told that the growths under my tongue may be linked to the Inuit's steady diet of fish. If I were to do a little research, trace my family history, I'd have to look at my one grandmother's family; she being French Canadian & Indian.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sad I try not to do. It was bad enough watching "million dollar baby."

Lana Gramlich said...

Bitter cold, oil rigs...sounds dreadful. *shudder*

Special Brew Man said...

We studied it at school here in NZ, Vince Ward being a local boy come goood and all...

Studying something in school usually means you hate it, but I wanted to read the book it was based on...but there´s only the 10 page story by Ward himself!

I found the love triangle thing a trifle annoying. But it certainly is moving when the daughter goes up to Alaska (I assume its Alaska) and finds her father as a drunk old Eskimo...to come to that after the life he led....yea not one for Sunday night pick me up