Dir: Dominik Graf. Germany, 2002. 117mins.
The second of three German films in competition at Berlin, A Map Of The Heart is a story of mixed-up emotions and crossed destinies set on the island of Corsica. Shot in mini-DV, the film is also unusual in its narrative structure - based on a series of either/or choices with echoes of Sliding Doors. But somewhere along the way, the map of the heroine's heart becomes impossible to read - a problem that might have been avoided if the film had been edited down to 90 minutes. It may do respectable business on home ground, but the reaction from overseas distributors has so far been decidedly tepid.
Katrin (Karoline Eichhorn), the film's central character, is on holiday in Corsica with her architect boss (Ralph Herforth), who is also her lover. When he tells her that his wife is pregnant and that he has no intention of leaving her, the relationship - and the holiday - quickly fall apart. On impulse, Katrin decides to stay on. She gets drunk, picks up a fragile but dangerous young blade, Malte (Antonio Wannek), and loses him again in a discotheque. Later, she has sex with two Corsican policeman in the apartment of an elderly voyeur. She meets Malte again, learns that he is a young offender staying in a German-run rehabilitation camp, and ends up helping the bare-chested delinquent and his younger brother, Kai (Sebastian Urzendowsky), to escape. Characters and storylines split and rejoin like atoms, and things begin to come full circle when we realise that Jurgen - Katrin's boss-lover - never left the island at all.
The film's digital video format was forced on the director when a slice of funding fell through shortly before shooting was due to begin. But A Map Of The Heart makes a virtue of necessity. It takes the "Germans on holiday in the Med' theme and explores its darker side, the way things can unravel during this temporary exile. So the grainy look of the film, the loss of focus during zooms, the choppy editing, all draw on that most throwaway contemporary film genre - the holiday video.
The action is linked by voiceovers that have a certain charm at first, but soon begin to grate: they sound too much like lyrics David Byrne might have written in the early 1980s ('Maybe the man doesn't want to go home to his pregnant wife'). A series of objects - a ring, a gun, a wallet - serve as chicanes, sending the seven main characters on collision courses or saving them at the last moment (the point is driven home rather mawkishly in the returning motif of a Senegalese beach hawker, who tells of the story-linking skills of his ancestors).
But in the end, A Map Of The Heart tries the patience of its audience by taking a turn too many. When the narrating voice tells us that Katrin 'feels nothing", it confirms our suspicions: that despite some serious acting, there is little emotional depth behind this tricksy storyline.
Prod co: MTM Medien & Television Munchen
Int'l sales: Bavaria Film Int'l
Prod: Gloria Burkert
Scr: Markus Busch, Dominik Graf
Cinematography: Benedict Neuenfels
Prod des: Claus-Jurgen Pfeiffer
Ed: Hana Mullner
Music: Dieter Schleip
Main cast: Karoline Eichhorn, Antonio Wannek, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Ralph Herforth, Peter Lohmeyer