Shelley Marsden – Hard to imagine that Peter ‘Lord of the Box Office’ Jackson was the man behind 1994’s Heavenly Creatures (or splatstick horror Braindead, for that matter).
By Shelley Marsden
Hard to imagine that Peter
‘Lord of the Box Office’ Jackson was the man behind 1994’s Heavenly Creatures
(or splatstick horror Braindead, for that matter).
The matricidal drama provided the breakthrough role for a
green-behind-the-ears Kate Winslet
and was also Jackson’s big cinematic breakthrough, before Orlando Bloom as a dashing fairy in a long blonde wig and other
such things were even a distant possibility.
In hindsight, it’s easy to label Heavenly Creatures as
simply the film that in launched two heavy-hitting careers, but – reminded by
this re-release – it’s a great film which deserves a viewing entirely on its
Taken from a screenplay that Jackson co-wrote with wife Fran Walsh, with the help of diary
extracts, it tells the tale of the notorious 1954 Parker-Hulme murder case in Christchurch, New Zealand. Sexy, moving
and still suitably disturbing seventeen years later, Heavenly Creatures is a
bold, ball-breaker of a movie.
The setting is Christchurch where the real crime took place,
and a perky young Winslet plays Juliette, a 15-year-old little rich girl from
England who, though sickly like her future friend has been, emanates a manic
Juliette’s path crosses with that of the sullen Pauline (Melanie Kynskey) and, frustrated and
bound by familial rejection, a friendship blossoms out of the kind of pairing
that makes oil and water seem compatible.
Their relationship, their complex fantasy lives (the Fourth
World is where they both feel safe), their child-like enthusiasm and
increasingly sexual passion for each other seems so natural, so intuitive,
lending a calming overtone to the dark stirrings underneath. Indeed, a dark
beauty hangs over everything about this disturbing tale.
In less than a year, the girls’ broody, passionate obsession
leads them to murder. Of course, Jackson’s gift is how he humanises the
horrific crime without resorting to sensationalist tactics, so much so that we
feel strangely sympathetic to the two strange girls whose fantasy worlds have
melded bloodily with reality.
Look at Jackson’s oeuvre, Heavenly Creatures was one of a
kind. And though we all love a good hobbit adventure, this stands head and
shoulders above Middle Earth.