Sunday, January 18, 2009

Movie Review - Heavenly Creatures (1994)

"I worship the power of these lovely two
With that adoring love known to so few
'Tis indeed a miracle, one must feel,
That two such heavenly creatures are real"

Before I write a review, I always remind myself of my own little cardinal rule: no spoilers. As with anything in life, there are always exceptions to every rule. Heavenly Creatures is one such exception. Knowing the history of events this film is based on won't necessarily grant you any special insights into its subject matter. What I find most intriguing is the fact that everything really happened. These people are real, and the unspeakable act they committed was real.

On June 22nd, 1954, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme murdered Pauline's mother, Honora by bludgeoning her to death with a brick stuffed in a stocking. During their murder trial, Pauline's diary was used as evidence against them, and direct quotes were used from the diary in this film(and in the excerpt above).

Heavenly Creatures sticks closely to the facts about the girls' lives leading up to the murder, but Peter Jackson still found a way to keep his unique visual flair intact. And leave it to him to make me laugh by having a man made of clay stab Pauline's therapist through the stomach with a giant sword. By the virtue of the girls' shared fantasies, the film has a dream-like quality at times, and it clashes directly with reality when Pauline(Melanie Lynskey) and Juliet(Kate Winslet) are forced to leave their fantasy worlds. Both girls were sick a lot growing up, and their sicknesses were what initially bonded them together when they met after Juliet transferred into Pauline's school. Their friendship started normally enough, with them playing in the woods and listening to records together. Then they began writing stories -- originally under the guise of a class assignment -- but those fictionalized places and people gradually intertwined with, and eventually consumed, their own lives. Noticing their odd behavior, the girls' parents thought it wise to seperate them, which only served as fuel to their increasingly heated fire. Not able to stand being forced apart, Pauline wrote in her diary a plan to kill her mother and escape with Juliet to America, where they would publish their stories and become famous actresses.

"Both sets of eyes, though different far, hold many mysteries strange
Impassively they watch the race of man decay and change

Hatred burning bright in the brown eyes with enemies for fuel
icy scorn glitters in the gray eyes, contemptuous and cruel

Why are men such fools they will not realize
the wisdom that is hidden behind those strange eyes.

And these wonderful people are you and I."

That's the story in a nutshell, but what I really liked about the film was the way Peter Jackson blended reality with the girls' fantasies. They both liked to make clay sculptures of their imaginary people, and there are several scenes of the girls interacting with the sculptures come to life. I don't know what they used for makeup, but they looked just like life-sized clay people, and it was pretty damn creepy yet cool to see. But then I remember these fantasies were how they coped with their dissatisfaction with life, and eventually led them to plotting and committing murder. I can't say I sympathized with them -- Pauline especially, because at least in the film, her parents seemed like nice, normal people. But the film shows how they perceived things in such a way that I can almost understand why they did what they did. Their grasp of reality deteriorated to the point where their own happiness meant everything, and they saw other people as nothing more than obstacles in their way of attaining it.

While a film could easily be made about the murder and its after-effects, that's not what Peter Jackson was really interested in with this film. I viewed it as a descent into madness, where irrational thought is made rational by a shared delusion of sick minds. While researching the actual events, I learned that Pauline and Juliet only served five years in prison, and Juliet actually went on to become a best-selling author of murder mysteries(under a new name, of course). Like I said, knowing any of these facts isn't required before watching this film. But for film buffs like myself, it makes it that much more interesting.

No comments:

Post a Comment