Before Peter Jackson was directing ‘The Lord of The Rings’ Trilogy and ‘King Kong’, he created a little film that is hard to define and even more difficult to compare. It’s biography, it’s violent, but it’s also a little bit of a love story.I’ve always been drawn to films about couples, and by that I don’t mean chick flicks or romantic comedies, but stories of the unique and compelling foundation that exists between two people. Film has a way of doing this that is almost deliriously engaging. The fact that this story is based on real people and obviously to a very real extent takes great artistic license in the telling of their story makes it all the more intriguing.
For those that do not know, ‘Heavenly Creatures’ is the interpretation of the lives of school girls Pauline Parker (unknown actress with a powerful presence Melanie Lynskey) and Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet, who astounds me in everything that she does – this girl was just born to act). The two girls develop a co-dependent, symbiotic relationship that engulfs their entire existences. When people conspire to part the girls, they will do anything to remain together, including committing murder.
The Parker-Hulme murder rocked Christchurch, New Zealand. The felling of the matriarch at the hands of her own daughter was something too bizarre, too extreme and too surreal to be real.
What Jackson has attempted is to define the girls in relation to one another. He has done his best to create the fantastical, obsessive, addictive world of their duet. In a bleak, drab, mediocre world, the explosion of colour, of vivacity, of life is sparked from the two girls’ interactions with one another. Initially bonding over illness and a succession of hospitalisations, their friendship becomes intoxicatingly intense. Dissillusioned with the real world, the girls lose themselves by concocting an imaginary kingdom named Borovnia. Their fantasies and games extend into a place Juliet names ‘the fourth world’, a kind of heaven beyond religious dictation. He highlights beautifully the solid sense of freedom, and also of restriction that exists in such a strong kind of dependence.
The girls’ relationship is uncategorised as its very nature is elastic. Best friends, sisters, lovers, the girls share not only an intellectual comprehension of the other and a powerful attachment but a sexual infatuation. The sheer intensity of their unity becomes a kind of insanity. But their desire to escape into one enough is partly a wish to avoid the hypocrisy, neglect, rejection and disappointment of their families, school and the alienating boredom of reality. They are reacting both to their strong chemistry over one another and desperate to be spirited away from the real world.
The collaborative combination of the bleak, sudden act of murder in all its dull, achy insistency, and the rich vibrancy of the girls’ fantasy life is quite destabilising. It becomes impossible to know if either girl is really all that sane, or just so high on one another. Any adolescent will understand the dizzying, heady onset of hormones, the desire to be understood and the urge of rebellion and escape that is so magically a part of being young and being alive; the raw passion of feeling and the extremity and desperation involved. Lynskey has a grounded, sinister, earthy quality that clashes wonderfully with Winslet’s ethereal, otherworldly, Shakespearean charm. Whilst Lynskey is childishly wicked, Winslet is manically hyper, like a whirling dervish and together, they are hard not to watch.
If you can part yourself from the fact, you can find yourself escaping into a world of fiction. It’s hard to imagine that this really happened and all because two young girls could not bear to be separated. This film will have you spinning along with it, demented, delirious, deliciously, until it all comes crashing down like a house of cards. It is not that I mean to detract from the murder. This is essentially a horror story, but the vein that runs through it centres on what drove two young girls to commit such a vile and horrendous crime and though it may never be fully understood, Jackson does his best to explore the emotional vulnerability and mental delicacy present for two people to sink into each other to such an extent, that the rest of the world falls away.