A Map of the Heart : Germany 2002 : Dominik Graf : 116 mins
While too many film directors are using Digital Video for very un-cinematic ends, Graf’s Der Felsen (A Map of the Heart), though ironically intended originally for television, engages the new medium’s possibilities – with some spectacular results. The DV decision was apparently taken at the last minute, while Graf and his co-writer Markus Busch laboured on the screenplay for years – but you’d be forgiven for thinking the opposite was the case, such is the contrast between the exhilarating style Graf uses tells his story, and the rickety nature of the Corsica-set tale itself, in which mid-thirties Grace Kelly type Katrin (Karoline Eichhorn) embarks on an ill-advised holiday romance with Malte, a charismatic tearaway (Antonio Wannek) half her age.
The first half hour sees Graf sketching his characters into their alien, exotic environment with quick, instinctive strokes. The visuals are, as usual with DV, rough and hand-held – but they’re so well chosen and edited that we get a genuinely poetic sense of nocturnal atmosphere, alive with possibility, threat, excitement, sex. Graf treads the tricky line between improvisation and complete control, and his judicious use of smooth, orchestral music as counterpoint is inspired
To emphasise the arbitrariness and artificiality of what we’re watching, omniscient male and female voices occasionally interject with dispassionate commentary on the characters and the choices they face. The presence of a Senegalais beach-trader, meanwhile, provides an excuse for the script’s deficiencies: we’re told of traditional African narrative techniques in which storytellers had to weave tales around a series of random items, with dire consequences should their tale run out of steam.
Graf and Busch would probably have been found wanting in such an arena, however, as they drift into some desperate meanderings in the third act, during which our ill-starred lovers lose their way after escaping into the harshly scenic Corsican hinterland. Like his heroine, Graf basically loses his way – but even if the final destination disappoints, there’s sufficient exhilaration along the way to justify striking out in search of fresh terrain – there’s a good reason why Malte lives in a rehab camp called ‘Brave New World.’
1st March, 2002
(seen 11 Feb 02, Berlin Film Festival)
by Neil Young
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