Map of the Human Heart (Blu-ray) (1993)

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Released 30-Mar-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 109:14
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Vincent Ward

Icon Entertainment
Starring Jason Scott Lee
Robert Joamie
Anne Parillaud
Annie Galipeau
Patrick Bergin
Clotilde Courau
John Cusack
Jeanne Moreau
Ben Mendelsohn
Jerry Snell
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Gabriel Yared

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     A cartographer known only as The Mapmaker (John Cusack) comes to the Canadian Arctic in 1965 to revise a set of maps that had been made 30 years before. He meets Avik (Jason Scott Lee), an aged half cast Inuit man, who says he was involved in the making of the old maps and that it had changed his life. The story he then tells is the basis for the rest of the film.

     In 1931 Walter Russell (Patrick Bergin) arrives in the Arctic to map the area. He becomes friendly with the young Avik (Robert Joamie) and when Walter discovers Avik has tuberculosis he takes him away from his people to a sanatorium in Montreal run by Sister Banville (Jeanne Moreau). There Avik meets Albertine (Annie Galipeau), a half cast Indian girl, and the two form a lasting bond although Albertine desperately wants to be accepted as “white”. The bond lasts until Albertine is taken from the sanatorium leaving behind for Avik only the memory of a song she sings, and an x-ray of her he steals from the sanatorium records.

     In 1941, Avik is cured and back in the Arctic but is an outcast, considered bad luck by his people. Walter returns to the Arctic, ostensibly to check his maps but in reality searching for a U-Boat stranded on the ice. Guided by Avik, they only find some frozen German bodies but during the expedition Avik hears on the radio Albertine’s song. He decides not to leave his people, but gives Walter the x-ray and asks him to look her up. But Avik is rejected by his people and decides to leave and enlist in the Canadian armed forces for the war against Germany.

     England 1944. Avik is a bombardier of a Lancaster bomber making night raids into Germany. Albertine (now Annie Parillaud) is also in RAF Bomber Command, analysing raid photographs when she realises Avik is in England. She makes contact with him and they agree to meet in London, where Avik is dismayed to find that she has become Walter’s mistress after he contacted her at Avik’s request. Albertine is comfortable, she wants to marry and remain in the white world, but he sends her messages encoded in the bombing photographs. As the bond between Avik and Albertine grows into love and Walter becomes aware, complications ensue for all three until an explosive climax during the massive Allied firebombing of the German city of Dresden.

     From New Zealand director Vincent Ward (The Navigator 1988) and writer Louis Nowra Map of the Human Heart is difficult to categorise. Part sweeping epic, part doomed love story, part a study of belonging and alienation Map of the Human Heart is perhaps like The English Patient but with snow. It is beautiful to look at; the Arctic vistas are breathtakingly captured by cinematographer Eduardo Serra, the tuberculosis sanatorium is colourful and the Lancaster bombing raids, including the Dresden firestorm, spectacular. But beyond that the film is too episodic, the parts not really making a cogent whole, and the complex, unbelievable twists of fate and the stilted dialogue mean that we too seldom feel an affinity with the characters. The symbolism of the maps as guides, and later the bombing photography, is laboured and the film is really too serious, too glum, searching for an epic feel that seems to leave out the enjoyment in romance, the sparkle that brings life to the screen. There is a redemption of sorts with the final scenes back in 1965 but, as Avik says at one point, “sometimes all maps can tell you is that you are lost” which is as good a summary of the film as any.

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Transfer Quality


     Map of the Human Heart is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio at 1080p. As noted the Arctic landscapes are beautifully captured, colours are great, sharpness good and blacks excellent although shadow detail is murky at times. There is film grain and occasional film artefacts so this is not the best film to show off the advantages of Blu-ray but neither is there anything too distracting.

     There are two sets of English subtitles. One translates only the Inuit dialogue in a clear white font. The second set is English for the hearing impaired. This one uses different colours, generally white and yellow where a couple of people are speaking and adds other information in green and blue. It is very colourful and quite well done.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is a choice between English DTS HD MA 5.1 and Dolby Digital True HD 5.1. Both tracks, but especially DTS, are wonderful tracks with a fully enveloping soundscape. Dialogue is clear and the surround speakers are used constantly for aircraft, ambient sounds, people and music, and spring to life effectively during the chaotic bombing raids. The sub woofer fully supports the aircraft engines, explosions and the music.

     I did not notice any issues with lip synchronisation.

     The music by Gabriel Yared was an effective support for the film but was not as memorable as some of his other scores, such as that for The English Patient.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     I can find as yet no record of a Blu-ray release other than ours. There is a Region 1 DVD release that has 4 deleted scenes. It is of course NTSC with Dolby Digital 2.0 and 16x9 enhanced.


     Map of the Human Heart is part sweeping epic, part doomed love story, part a study of belonging and alienation. It is beautiful to look at but the parts do not really make a cogent whole. The Blu-ray has good video, excellent audio but no extras at all.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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