Heavenly Creatures

Heavenly Creatures

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Heavenly Creatures is a 1994 film directed by Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson
Sir Peter Robert Jackson, KNZM is a New Zealand film director, producer, actor, and screenwriter, known for his The Lord of the Rings film trilogy , adapted from the novel by J. R. R...

, from a screenplay he co-wrote with his wife Fran Walsh
Fran Walsh
Frances "Fran" Walsh, Lady Jackson, MNZM is a screenwriter, film producer and occasional musician. She is the spouse of filmmaker Peter Jackson. They have two children: Billy and Katie....

, about the notorious 1954 Parker-Hulme murder
Parker-Hulme murder
The Parker-Hulme Murder was a murder and subsequent court case that occurred in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1954, achieving notoriety because a mother was murdered by two teenage girls: her daughter and her daughter's best friend...

 case in Christchurch
Christchurch
Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the country's second-largest urban area after Auckland. It lies one third of the way down the South Island's east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula which itself, since 2006, lies within the formal limits of...

, New Zealand. Filmed on location in Christchurch, it features Melanie Lynskey
Melanie Lynskey
Melanie Jayne Lynskey is a New Zealand actress best known for playing Charlie Harper's neighbor/stalker Rose on Two and a Half Men, and a range of characters in films such as Win Win, Up in the Air, The Informant!, Away We Go, Flags of Our Fathers, Shattered Glass, Sweet Home Alabama, Ever After...

 and Kate Winslet
Kate Winslet
Kate Elizabeth Winslet is an English actress and occasional singer. She has received multiple awards and nominations. She was the youngest person to accrue six Academy Award nominations, and won the Academy Award for Best Actress for The Reader...

 in their screen debuts. The film deals with the obsessive relationship between Pauline Parker
Pauline Parker
Pauline Yvonne Parker is a woman from Christchurch, New Zealand who, together with her friend Juliet Hulme , murdered her mother, Honora Rieper, on 22 June 1954...

 (Lynskey) and Juliet Hulme
Anne Perry
Anne Perry is an English author of historical detective fiction. Perry was convicted of the murder of her friend's mother in 1954.-Early life:Born Juliet Marion Hulme in Blackheath, London, the daughter of Dr...

 (Winslet), two teenagers who murdered Parker's mother (Peirse). The events of the film cover the period from the girls' meeting in early 1953 to the murder in 1954.

Heavenly Creatures opened to strong critical acclaim at the Venice Film Festival
Venice Film Festival
The Venice International Film Festival is the oldest international film festival in the world. Founded by Count Giuseppe Volpi in 1932 as the "Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica", the festival has since taken place every year in late August or early September on the island of the...

 in 1994 and became one of the most well-received films of the year. Reviewers praised most aspects of the production, however particular attention was given to the performances by a previously unknown Winslet, co-star Lynskey and for Jackson's directing achievements. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

Plot


In 1950s Christchurch, New Zealand, a 14-year old girl from a working class family Pauline Parker
Pauline Parker
Pauline Yvonne Parker is a woman from Christchurch, New Zealand who, together with her friend Juliet Hulme , murdered her mother, Honora Rieper, on 22 June 1954...

 (Lynskey) befriends the more affluent English 15-year old Juliet Hulme
Anne Perry
Anne Perry is an English author of historical detective fiction. Perry was convicted of the murder of her friend's mother in 1954.-Early life:Born Juliet Marion Hulme in Blackheath, London, the daughter of Dr...

 (Winslet) when Juliet transfers to Pauline's school. They bond over a shared history of severe childhood disease and isolating hospitalizations, and over time develop an intense friendship. Pauline admires Juliet's outspoken arrogance and beauty. Together they paint, write stories, make clay figurines, and eventually create a fantasy kingdom called Borovnia, which begins to be as real to them as the real world. Pauline's relationship with her mother becomes increasingly hostile and the two fight constantly. This angry atmosphere is in contrast to the peaceful intellectual life Juliet shares with her family. Pauline spends most of her time at the Hulme's, where she feels accepted. During a day trip to Port Levy, Juliet's parents announce that they are going away and plan to leave Juliet behind, and her fear of being left alone makes her hysterical. Her hysteria culminates in her first experience of "the Fourth World," a land where all is beautiful and she is safe. She asks Pauline to come with her, and the world that Juliet sees becomes visible to Pauline, too. After this event, the two refer to the Fourth World as the place they'll go when they die, and they name actors they like as "saints" in that world. This is presented as a shared psychosis that becomes the girls' predominant reality, severely affecting their ability to accurately perceive real-world events.

Juliet has an attack of tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 and is sent to a clinic, and again her parents leave the country, leaving her alone and desperately missing Pauline. Pauline is desolate without her, and the two begin an intense correspondence, writing not only as themselves, but in the roles of the royal couple of Borovnia. During this time Pauline begins a sexual relationship with a boarder, which makes Juliet jealous. For both of them, their fantasy life becomes a useful escape when under stress in the real world, and the two engage in increasingly violent, even murderous, fantasies. After four months, Juliet is released from the clinic and their relationship intensifies and becomes sexual. Juliet's father blames the intensity of the relationship on Pauline and speaks to her parents, who take her to a doctor. The doctor suspects that Pauline is homosexual because of her intense love for Juliet, and attributes her increasing anger at her mother to this "disorder."

Juliet catches her mother carrying on an affair with one of her psychological clients and threatens to tell her father, but her mother tells her he knows. Shortly afterward, the two announce their intention to divorce, upsetting Juliet terribly. Soon it is decided that the family will leave Christchurch, with Juliet being left with a relative in South Africa. She becomes increasingly hysterical at the thought of leaving Pauline, and the two girls plan to run away together. When that plan becomes impossible, the two begin to talk about murdering Pauline's mother, Honora, as they see her as the primary obstacle to their remaining together. As the date of Juliet's departure nears, it is decided that the two girls should spend the last two weeks together at Juliet's house. At the end of that time Pauline returns home and the two finalize plans for the murder. Honora plans a day for the three of them at Victoria Park, and the girls decide this will be the day. Juliet puts a broken piece of brick into a stocking and they go off to the park. After having tea, the three walk down the path and when Honora bends over to pick up a pink charm the girls have put there, Juliet and Pauline bludgeon her to death.

In a postscript it is revealed that the next day the Pauline's diary was found, in which the plan for the murder had been outlined. The two are tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison. It is a condition of their eventual release that they never meet again.

Cast

  • Melanie Lynskey
    Melanie Lynskey
    Melanie Jayne Lynskey is a New Zealand actress best known for playing Charlie Harper's neighbor/stalker Rose on Two and a Half Men, and a range of characters in films such as Win Win, Up in the Air, The Informant!, Away We Go, Flags of Our Fathers, Shattered Glass, Sweet Home Alabama, Ever After...

     — Pauline Parker
    Pauline Parker
    Pauline Yvonne Parker is a woman from Christchurch, New Zealand who, together with her friend Juliet Hulme , murdered her mother, Honora Rieper, on 22 June 1954...

  • Kate Winslet
    Kate Winslet
    Kate Elizabeth Winslet is an English actress and occasional singer. She has received multiple awards and nominations. She was the youngest person to accrue six Academy Award nominations, and won the Academy Award for Best Actress for The Reader...

     — Juliet Hulme
    Anne Perry
    Anne Perry is an English author of historical detective fiction. Perry was convicted of the murder of her friend's mother in 1954.-Early life:Born Juliet Marion Hulme in Blackheath, London, the daughter of Dr...

  • Sarah Peirse
    Sarah Peirse
    Sarah Peirse is a New Zealand actress. She is a multi-award winning actor on screen and stage, best known for her portrayals of two very different mothers — the kind-hearted Honora Rieper in Heavenly Creatures, and the disaffected sophisticate in Rain....

     — Honora Parker
  • Diana Kent — Hilda Hulme
  • Clive Merrison
    Clive Merrison
    Clive Merrison is a Welsh actor of film, television, stage and radio. He trained at Rose Bruford College.- Television :...

     — Dr. Henry Hulme
  • Simon O'Connor — Herbert Rieper
  • Jed Brophy
    Jed Brophy
    Jed Brophy is a film actor from New Zealand. He has appeared in several of Peter Jackson's films, including Braindead, Heavenly Creatures, The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, King Kong, and will also appear as the dwarf Nori in The Hobbit films.-Filmography:-External links:...

     — John ("Nicholas")
  • Peter Elliott
    Peter Elliott (actor)
    Peter Elliott is a leading New Zealand actor. He has appeared in numerous television shows including Shortland Street, Gloss and Homeward Bound. He has also appeared in several movies including Heavenly Creatures.-Shortland Street:...

     - Bill Perry
  • Gilbert Goldie - Dr. Bennett

Development


Fran Walsh
Fran Walsh
Frances "Fran" Walsh, Lady Jackson, MNZM is a screenwriter, film producer and occasional musician. She is the spouse of filmmaker Peter Jackson. They have two children: Billy and Katie....

 suggested to Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson
Sir Peter Robert Jackson, KNZM is a New Zealand film director, producer, actor, and screenwriter, known for his The Lord of the Rings film trilogy , adapted from the novel by J. R. R...

 (who was famous for horror-comedy films) that they write a film about the notorious Parker-Hulme murder. Jackson took the idea to his long-time collaborator, producer Jim Booth (who died after filming). The three filmmakers decided that the film should tell the story of the friendship between the two girls rather than focus on the murder and trial. "The friendship was for the most part a rich and rewarding one, and we tried to honour that in the film. It was our intention to make a film about a friendship that went terribly wrong," said Peter Jackson.

Fran Walsh had been interested in the case since her early childhood. "I first came across it in the late sixties when I was ten years old. The Sunday Times devoted two whole pages to the story with an accompanying illustration of the two girls. I was struck by the description of the dark and mysterious friendship that existed between them - by the uniqueness of the world the two girls had created for themselves."

Jackson and Walsh researched the story by reading contemporary newspaper accounts of the trial. They decided that the sensational aspects of the case that so titillated newspaper readers in 1954 were far removed from the story that Jackson and Walsh wished to tell. "In the 1950s, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme were branded as possibly the most evil people on earth. What they had done seemed without rational explanation, and people could only assume that there was something terribly wrong with their minds," states Jackson. To bring a more humane version of events to the screen, the filmmakers undertook a nationwide search for people who had close involvement with Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme forty years earlier. This included tracing and interviewing seventeen of their former classmates and teachers from Christchurch Girls' High School. In addition, Jackson and Walsh spoke with neighbours, family friends, work colleagues, policemen, lawyers and psychologist
Psychologist
Psychologist is a professional or academic title used by individuals who are either:* Clinical professionals who work with patients in a variety of therapeutic contexts .* Scientists conducting psychological research or teaching psychology in a college...

s. Jackson and Walsh also read Pauline's diary, in which she made daily entries documenting her friendship with Juliet Hulme and events throughout their relationship. From the diary entries, it became apparent that Pauline and Juliet were intelligent, imaginative, outcast young women who possessed a wicked and somewhat irreverent sense of humor. All of Pauline's voiceovers are excerpts from her journal entries.

Casting


The role of Pauline was cast after Fran Walsh scouted schools all over New Zealand to find a Pauline 'look-alike'. She had trouble finding an actress who resembled Pauline and had acting talent before discovering Melanie Lynskey. Kate Winslet auditioned for the part of Juliet, winning the role over 175 other girls. The girls were both absorbed by their role so much that they kept on acting as Pauline and Juliet after the filming was done, as is described on Jackson's website. The filming of the murder scene had an impact on them as the viewing of the film has to some viewers.

Locations


The entire film was filmed on location in Christchurch city in the South Island of New Zealand. Jackson has been quoted as saying "Heavenly Creatures is based on a true story, and as such I felt it important to shoot the movie on locations where the actual events took place."

Special effects


The special effects in the film were handled by the then newly-created Weta Digital
Weta Digital
Weta Digital is a digital visual effects company based in Wellington, New Zealand. It was founded by Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, and Jamie Selkirk in 1993 to produce the digital special effects for Heavenly Creatures. In 2007 Weta Digital’s Senior Visual Effects Supervisor, Joe Letteri, was...

. The girls' fantasy life, and the "Borovnian" extras (the characters the girls made up) were supervised by Richard Taylor while the digital effects were supervised by George Port. Taylor and his team constructed over 70 full-sized latex costumes to represent the "Borovnian" crowds—plasticine figures that inhabit Pauline and Juliet's magical fantasy world. Heavenly Creatures contains over thirty shots that were digitally manipulated ranging from the morphing garden of the "Fourth World," to castles in fields, to the "Orson Welles
Orson Welles
George Orson Welles , best known as Orson Welles, was an American film director, actor, theatre director, screenwriter, and producer, who worked extensively in film, theatre, television and radio...

" sequences.

Release


Heavenly Creatures was not a huge box office success, but performed admirably in various countries, including the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 where it grossed a total of $3,049,135 during its limited run in 57 theaters and $5,438,120 worldwide.

Heavenly Creatures has garnered critical praise, and was an Academy Award nominee in 1994 for Best Original Screenplay. It featured in a number of international film festivals, and received very favourable reviews worldwide, including making top ten of the year lists in Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

, The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

, The Sydney Morning Herald
The Sydney Morning Herald
The Sydney Morning Herald is a daily broadsheet newspaper published by Fairfax Media in Sydney, Australia. Founded in 1831 as the Sydney Herald, the SMH is the oldest continuously published newspaper in Australia. The newspaper is published six days a week. The newspaper's Sunday counterpart, The...

, and The New Zealand Herald
The New Zealand Herald
- External links :* * *...

.

The success of Heavenly Creatures won Peter Jackson attention from American company Miramax, who promoted the film vigorously in America and signed him to a first look deal
First look deal
A first look deal is an arrangement, usually in the film industry, where either a company or in some cases an individual enters into a commercial agreement with a studio under which they must allow the studio the right of first refusal in relation to developing and/or producing a project the...

 and launched the career of Kate Winslet. The film's international release coincided with members of the New Zealand media tracking down the real-life Juliet Hulme, who now wrote murder mysteries in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 under the name Anne Perry
Anne Perry
Anne Perry is an English author of historical detective fiction. Perry was convicted of the murder of her friend's mother in 1954.-Early life:Born Juliet Marion Hulme in Blackheath, London, the daughter of Dr...

. Until this point, Jackson had been careful in interviews not to reveal this information, although he argued that her identity had already been common knowledge in some New Zealand theatrical circles as early as 1992. This turn of events saw the expression of some contrasting views between Jackson, Walsh and Hulme in interviews, about the film's fidelity to what had occurred (although Hulme admitted she had not seen the film, and had no desire to.)

In 1996, the movie was released on videocassette and on Laser Disc at its original runtime of 99 minutes. In 2002 the film received DVD
DVD
A DVD is an optical disc storage media format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than Compact Discs while having the same dimensions....

 releases in Region 1 in an "uncut version" which ran for 109 minutes. Region 2 and Region 4 released the original 99 minute theatrical version. In 2011, the U.S. online movie services Netflix
Netflix
Netflix, Inc., is an American provider of on-demand internet streaming media in the United States, Canada, and Latin America and flat rate DVD-by-mail in the United States. The company was established in 1997 and is headquartered in Los Gatos, California...

and HuluPlus began streaming the film in its original 99 minute version.