Saturday, June 2, 2012

#656. Heavenly Creatures (1994)

Directed By: Peter Jackson

Starring: Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet, Sarah Peirse

Tag line: "From a secret world no one could see...came a crime no one could believe"

Trivia:  A picture on the wall in Pauline's bedroom is a photograph of the real Juliet Hulme

Based on an actual murder that occurred in 1950's New Zealand, Heavenly Creatures tells the story of Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey) and Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet), a couple of teenage girls whose friendship led to a tragedy that shook an entire nation. 

At first glance, Pauline and Juliet, who are classmates at an all-girls school, seem to have very little in common. Pauline is overweight and a bit of a loner, while Juliet, who recently moved to the area from England, is attractive and outgoing. Yet the two find they share many of the same interests, and the bond between them grows stronger with each passing day. 

They even create an imaginary world together, a place called Borovnia, which serves as a safe harbor of sorts from the sometimes cruel world surrounding them. Eventually, the fantasy of Borovnia will became more "real" for Pauline and Juliet than reality itself, and when their parents, fearing the intensity of their relationship, try to separate the two, they discover, in grisly fashion, that keeping these best friends apart is easier said than done!

With Heavenly Creatures, director Peter Jackson successfully recreates the conditions under which the real Pauline and Juliet became friends, meticulously exploring the depths of their relationship, both in his development of their characters and by way of narration, lifted directly from the real Pauline Parker’s diary. We learn how illness kept both girls restricted to bed at an early age, during which time they developed their active imaginations. And while they were good students, neither had much success adapting to the social structure of the school environment, Pauline because of her shyness and Juliet because she had a blatant disregard for the rules. 

Then, with the 'why' of their friendship firmly established, Jackson delves head-first into the world of fancy these girls created in their minds, the dark and beautiful land of Borovnia. With sensational special effects (the population of Borovnia consists of men and women, life-sized, made entirely of clay), and camera trickery, Heavenly Creatures veers off in a thrilling and ultimately terrifying new direction.

This tale of two teenage girls who allowed their imaginations to rule their actions served as a springboard for its director, a chance for him to dabble in fantasy, a genre he would redefine a few short years later with his Lord of the Rings trilogy. While its roots are firmly entrenched in a harrowing reality, Peter Jackson managed to inject a good dose of make-believe into Heavenly Creatures as well, blending the two to near perfection.


Anonymous said...

A little uneven with Jackson's direction, but the story kept me interested and I just continued to keep on thinking about it long after it was over. Very disturbing stuff here. Nice post my man.

DVD Infatuation said...

@dtmmr: It IS a disturbing film, and the last scene is tough to watch (I found out as I was looking into it that, in the actual murder this was based on, it took 45 whacks to get the job done. Can you imagine? 45!).

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. And thanks also for the comment.

Tommy Ross said...

Kate Winslett's first movie, yep, this one's a bit twisted, but oh so fun! I really like the fantasy segments that have the early Jackson touch and Winslett is spot-on as always.

James Robert Smith said...

This is the only Peter Jackson movie that I like. I can't think of any other director whose movies I've seen who keeps delivering crap. I think I saw so many of his bad movies because this one is so damned good and I figured (wrongly) that he would deliver something this good again. He remains one of the most overrated directors I could name.

When I saw it not long after it came out I recall thinking that Kate Winslett would almost certainly become a major star, but that there wasn't much hope for Melanie Lynskey's career despite an excellent performance here. I was right about Winslett, but so wrong about Lynskey.

Most of Jackson's films I watched at the insistence of friends who somehow enjoy his work. This would include his initial low-budget efforts. I was initially engaged by his Lord of the Rings films but looking back it was the performance of Ian McKellen that held my attention and nothing else. KING KONG and THE LOVELY BONES did enough to disgust me so that I put him on my list of directors whose work I will never see in future.