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‘Here’ maps the human heart

“Here” (2011 production, 2012 release). Cast: Ben Foster, Lubna Azabal, Narek Nersisyan, Yuri Kostanyan, Sophik Sarkisyan, Christina Hovaguimyan, Hovak Gaolyan, Hmayak Hakopyan, Narik Beglaryan, Peter Coyote (narrator). Director: Braden King. Screenplay: Braden King and Dani Valent. Web site. Trailer.

So much of the time, we spend our lives trying to figure out where we’re at. But, in the process, we often focus on the trivial and overlook what’s truly important. Learning how to overcome that tendency can be challenging, but the rewards are certainly worth it, as two unlikely lovers find out for themselves in the absorbing romance, “Here,” now available on DVD.

When satellite mapping technician Will Shepard (Ben Foster) takes a contract to work in Armenia, he’s very much on his own. The American-born cartographer doesn’t speak the language, and he spends most of his time by himself in the field. But, then, given his loner nature, that arrangement suits him well. He can carry out his highly technical work in solitude, unburdened by the distractions of daily life.

That all changes, however, when Will meets Gadarine (Lubna Azabal), a free-spirited art photographer, who has returned to her Armenian homeland after a stint in Paris. She’s back to work on a new project that involves shooting photos in the same region where Will’s work will be taking him. The usually reserved technician quietly takes a liking to his new acquaintance, and Gadarine clearly enjoys his company, so she decides to accompany him on his trip. And, even though the journey may involve a trek into a familiar landscape, the improbable traveling companions are clearly headed into uncharted territory together.

The chemistry between Will and Gadarine is palpable, and their connection grows ever stronger the longer the two of them are together. But Gadarine proves to be more than a source of companionship; she helps Will to change his perspective about his work by acquainting him with the character of the land that he had previously treated merely as the subject matter of his vocation. In the process, she introduces Will to old friends (Christina Hovaguimyan, Hovak Gaolyan) and helps him out of difficult situations with a shady mechanic (Narik Beglaryan) and a punctilious border official (Hmayak Hakopyan) in the disputed Karabakh region. The once-independent cartographer gradually finds himself more attached to and dependent upon someone else for perhaps the first time in his life. It’s territory with which he’s mostly unfamiliar – and decidedly uncomfortable.

However, through his involvement with Gadarine, over time, Will comes to engage not only in the mapping of Armenia but also in that of his own heart. The experience shows him things about himself that he never knew before. He also learns that there’s more to life than work, an ironic realization given that it arose through, of all things, his job. It changes his personal landscape forever and in ways he once never could have envisioned.

“Here” is a deceptively profound film, thanks to the subtle, nuanced approach to its narrative. This is accomplished in a number of ways, such as the inclusion of a storyteller (Peter Coyote), whose voiceover narrations deftly lend philosophical definition to the subject matter. So what may seem like just a love story on the surface is, in fact, much more than that. It’s also a meditation on self-discovery, on finding one’s place in the Universe, a process that ultimately proves to be far more subjective than its objectively minded protagonist once believed it to be. Indeed, as the storyteller relates, the mapmaker learns through his experience that “truth is conjecture.”

The picture is also a metaphysical exploration into the workings of the conscious creation process. As anyone familiar with this practice knows, conscious creation is the process by which we create the reality we experience through the application of our beliefs to the act of manifestation. The beliefs we employ in the materialization process arise from the input we supply them from our intellect and our intuition, a harmonious fusion sometimes known as “the magical approach.” In carrying out its mission, our intellect draws upon qualities like logic, reason and the perceptions of our five outer senses. Our intuition, in turn, makes use of such traits as emotions, gut feelings, impulses and inner knowing. The interaction of the input from these two sources yields the beliefs we form and then turn into the corporeal world we experience around us.

Will and Gadarine symbolically depict how this process plays out. The logical, analytical Will represents the intellect, while the impulsive, creative Gadarine symbolizes the intuition. Like many of us who were brought up to believe that rational approaches to life are everything, Will, by his work, words and deeds, believes that science and technology can be used to answer all questions, to solve all problems and to make the world a better place. Gadarine, by contrast, believes we should trust our hunches and live an intuitive approach to life, for that’s where its genuine richness resides. While each outlook has its merits, however, neither can operate alone. They need each other, just as Will and Gadarine need each other to make their journey work. Their interaction results in the real magic that the magical approach makes possible.

Coming to this realization about how life works is indeed quite revelatory in many different ways. In one sense, it can be devastating, for it shatters all of our preconceived notions about how we think the world works, as Will discovers when he realizes that his rational, mechanistic, scientific approach to life isn’t enough to make it fulfilling or to adequately define it. Becoming aware of the fact that reality is more subjective than objective can be quite disillusioning, especially for those, like Will, who put their faith in the notion that all of life can be characterized in such explicitly definitive terms.

At the same time, this realization can also be rewarding beyond expectations. When Will discovers the “irrational” but heartfelt beauty that life has to offer, the power of such subjectivity transcends whatever certainty an objective outlook on reality can provide. This can be a hard lesson, but it can also be one that’s fulfilling beyond measure. The question that this raises, then, is “Does one have the courage to walk away from old attitudes and embrace such a new, nuanced view of life?” That’s the issue Will must face, and he has Gadarine to thank for helping to make him aware of this possibility – and the choice he has in either addressing it or ignoring it. We can only hope he makes the right choice.

“Here” is a thoughtfully written exploration of the foregoing, as examined through the milieu of romance. While any subject could have conceivably been used for such an exercise, romance is especially fitting, considering the exceptionally intimate, highly personalized nature of the material. The pacing is, admittedly, a tad slow in spots, but that’s deliberate, given that self-discovery is often an unhurried process, an approach that’s essential to the exploration of one’s own psyche and the mapping of one’s own heart. The pace is also slowed somewhat through the inclusion of a number of long, lingering shots of the Armenian landscape (itself one of the stars of the show) that are clearly present for their own sheer visual delight. In fact, the picture’s gorgeous cinematography was rewarded with a 2012 Independent Spirit Award nomination for its achievements in this area.

In an age characterized by extreme technological specificity, we’re often tempted to quantify and qualify everything in our lives to an almost absurdly explicit degree, one where all of the meaning and feeling – the true measures of life’s significance – is bled out of them. By doing so, we may gain access to the hard and fast tangible qualities of what we experience, but we lose so much by not taking stock of the intrinsic subjective attributes of our reality. And that’s a shame, for, if we’re to gain a genuine appreciation of our lives, we’d be far better off passing up readouts on the numerical coordinates of our present existence and, instead, focusing more on the “here” of where we are. Will and Gadarine come to learn the value of this through their journey in “Here,” and we can all benefit from their example.

Copyright © 2013, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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