Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 


29/10/98: His latest film, the groundbreaking What Dreams May Come, has just opened around Australia, and like his previous films, it is an epic and romantic journey. His last film, Map of the Human Heart, made over five years ago, was as expansive in time and place as his last - but its concerns were just as intimate and close to the heart. ANDREW L. URBAN reports.

A wolf ate the boat. The boat was a prop for Vincent Ward's epic romance and arctic adventure, Map of the Human Heart. In the relative warmth of a Canadian Arctic spring afternoon, at minus 20 degrees, building another prop boat was a great way to stay warm for the crew, many of whom had never worked with Vincent Ward before, otherwise they may have expected this.

"our view of the world is similar"

"I have often lived in indegenous communities and I have travelled around this Arctic area before. Coming from one edge of the world - New Zealand - our view of the world is similar and it's not such a big step, since we are still on the OUTER edges..."

Ward, a New Zealander by birth, but an adopted Australian, made his previous film on top of New Zealand's coldest mountain, either up to his stubbly chin in freezing volcanic lake water, or deep inside cavernous hollows dank with age. That film, The Navigator, was only his second feature film, but like his first, Vigil, it was invited to Competition at the Cannes.

"a love story about two outsiders,"

With a 13 week shoot and a budget of US$16 million, (which was marginally overshot) Map of the Human Heart spans 30 years including World War II. "It is essentially a love story about two outsiders," says Ward, "who are neither white nor Indian (Inuit), caught between cultures."

Jason Scott Lee plays Avik, the young half breed; Anne Parillaud plays Albertine, a Metis Indian girl at the centre of the clash between Avik and the sophisticated Walter Russell (Patrick Bergin), who meets the young Albertine when he leads a cartographical expedition - in reality a spying mission.

Ben Mendelsohn (Spotswood) plays Farmboy, a young Australian who becomes Avik's best friend.

The film combines the elements of a dramatic love story, a wartime adventure, and a visual roller coaster; Ward and his cinematographer Eduardo Serra were determined to create memorable images, just as Ward had done in The Navigator - powerful, haunting pictures.

"It's obviously a lot of filming against white, and lots of chopper shots. But I don't like the way colour film handles midday sunlight, so I tried to avoid that. Either by shooting inside, or filming more at the end of the day."

"Inuit art is almost all topographical.."

The unusually harsh setting - for a love story - came about for a variety of reasons, all of them to do with Vincent Ward's personal background, his area of interest and his experiences.

"The story conceptually has to do with map making," he explains. "Inuit art is almost all topographical...they've always had a sense of their place as if viewed from above."

Ward developed the project himself, and took it to Working Title, where Tim Bevan's Polygram connections were engaged. Ward also involed Tim White, an old friend from art school days, and a prolific Australian producer (Spotswood, Death In Brunswick, Eightball, Celia, and co-producer, The Big Steal).

Polygram provided the principal finance, but a number of presales and co-production partners were picked up along the way. The Australian Film Finance Corporation, although a minority investor, also has a substantial equity. White describes the financial package as "incredibly complex", with some 15 partners in all.

The most substantial presales came from Miramax for US rights, and Films Ariane for France. In Australia, where all distributors expressed interest, Hoyts (Distribution) has acquired the film.

Email this article




8/10/98: Australia/Canada/UK
Cast: Anne Parillaud, Patrick Bergin, Jason Scott Lee, Ben Mendelsohn, Clotilde Courau, Jeanne Moreau.

Producers: Vincent Ward, Linda Beath, Tim Bevan, Tim White.
Director: Vincent Ward. Script: Vincent Ward, Louis Nowra.
Cinematography: Eduardo Serra. Productoion. Design: John Beard. Editor: John Scott. Music: Gabriel Yarad.
Int. Sales: Manifesto Film Sales.


Vincent Ward - in his dreams

29/10/98: The Making Of is a unique and historic series of articles on a selection of Australian films - such as this one - that were made BI (Before Internet), or at least before Urban Cinefile was launched. All the films covered in this series can be found in the FEATURES ARCHIVES menu page, listed alphabetically under MAKING OF

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Australian Film Commission in helping to publish this series.


We have already published Making of features for the following films:

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020