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 New Zealand in the 1950’s, 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 would shake an entire nation. At first glance, it appeared Pauline and Juliet, who met as classmates at an all-girls school, had very little in common. Pauline was overweight and a bit of a loner, while Juliet, who'd just moved to the area from England, was attractive and outgoing. Yet the two found they shared many of the same interests, and the bond between them grew stronger with each passing day. They even created an imaginary world together, a place called Borovnia, which served as a safe harbor of sorts from the sometimes cruel world around them. Eventually, the fantasy of Borovnia became more real to Pauline and Juliet than reality itself, and when their parents, fearing the intensity of their relationship, tried to separate them, they discovered, and in a most grisly manner, that keeping these best friends apart was easier said than done.

With Heavenly Creatures, director Peter Jackson successfully recreates the conditions under which 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 illness had kept both girls restricted to bed at an early age, during which time they developed their active imaginations. Also, despite the fact they were both 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, once the 'why' of their friendship has been 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 out of clay), and camera trickery, Heavenly Creatures veers off in a new, thrilling direction.

This tale of two teens who allowed their imaginations to rule their actions would serve as a springboard for its director, a chance for him to try his hand at fantasy, a genre he would redefine a few short years later with his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Even though its roots are firmly entrenched in reality, Peter Jackson managed to introduce a bit of make-believe to Heavenly Creatures as well, blending the two to 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.