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Heavenly Creatures
Heavenly Creatures
Actors: Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet, Sarah Peirse, Diana Kent, Clive Merrison
Director: Peter Jackson
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
R     2002     1hr 39min

A starkly original film-going experience based on a true life story, this film from New Zealand director Peter Jackson (Dead Alive, The Frighteners) is a stirring drama that offers up the unexpected. The story concerns two...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet, Sarah Peirse, Diana Kent, Clive Merrison
Director: Peter Jackson
Creators: Alun Bollinger, Peter Jackson, Bridget Bourke, Hanno Huth, Jim Booth, Fran Walsh
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Miramax
Format: DVD - Color,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 09/24/2002
Original Release Date: 01/01/1994
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1994
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 1hr 39min
Screens: Color,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
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Movie Reviews

Peter Jackson's captivating murder story with no villains
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 12/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"For those who wondered how the director of "Bad Taste" and "Brain Dead" got to direct "The Lord of the Rings," this 1994 film from director Peter Jackson supplies the answer. In 1954 two teenage girls brutally murdered one of the their mothers in what must be the most sensational murder in New Zealand history. "Heavenly Creatures" tells the strange story of these two girls and their unique relationship. If you think this is just a reality based splatter flick, then you are going to be much more than surprised and impressed by what Jackson has accomplished.Pauline Rieper (Melanie Lynskey) is a simple and rather dull young girl who is totally dazzled when Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet) enters her life. Juliet is impressed as well, because Pauline has a scar on her leg from an operation. Juliet declares that: "All the best people have had chest and bone disease! It's all frightfully romantic!" Eventually both the romance and the frightfullness of it all reaches a tragic conclusion. In their all consuming friendship Juliet and Pauline create a "Fourth World," better than heaven (because it has no Christians), inhabited by the clay figures they have fashioned to represents their friends and where the music of Mario Lanza, the greatest tenor on earth, is always in the air.Jackson brings this fantasy world alive, which allows him to explore the pivotal theme of juxtaposition throughout the film. This comes into play most notably at the beginning and ending of "Heavenly Clouds." Jackson begins with a 1950s newsreel about Christchurch, New Zealand, which is interrupted by the appearance of the two screaming and bloodied girls, thereby symbolizing the way this sensational case shocked the nation. Even more effective is the film's conclusion, where the murder is inter-cut with what the girls think will happen if they do not find this way of saving themselves. With any film based on historical events there are omissions, alterations, substitutions, and the like, and "Heavenly Creatures" is no different. On the plus side of the ledger Jackson attempted an almost morbid verisimilitude. Almost all of the locations used for filming were the real locations where events occurred, including the tea shop where Honora Parker ate her last meal, which was torn down a few days after the shooting ended. However, the cast and crew found the actual murder scene uncomfortable and moved further down the path. All of the journal voice-overs come directly from Pauline's diary, as are the characters in the girls' make-believe world. However, since the two filled up fifteen notebooks and hundreds of letters devoted to their fantasies, the movie actually underplays these elements.However, having familiarized myself somewhat with the actual "facts" of the case, and the recollections of the woman one of the girls grew up to be, the key point of dispute is the motive. But if Jackson is guilty of becoming fixated on the idea that these two young girl committed a murder because they could not bear to be separated and have their fantasy world unravel, then he can be hardly faulted for finding that a fascinating interpretation of the evidence (the girls never testified or were examined in court, but Pauline's diary was seen as providing all the answers). More importantly, Jackson does not seem guilty of taking liberties, merely with offering a valid interpretation of the evidence. For example, the murder sequence greatly reduces the number of blows, but the effect is still horrific, so it seems trivial to complain about any inaccuracy. From an artistic standpoint his interpretation is more than justified, especially at the end. In addition to the information we receive between the final scene and the closing credits that tells what happened to Pauline and Juliet, Marzio Lanza sings "You'll Never Walk Alone," which is as perfect a choice of a song to play at the end of a film as you will ever hear, forcefully underscoring the film's thesis. Jackson says this is "a murder story about love, a murder story with no villains," and it is hard to argue with this idea after watching his film."Heavenly Creatures" received an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for Jackson and Frances Walsh. The film won every award for which it was nominated in the New Zealand Film and TV Awards, including Best Actress for Lynskey and Best Foreign Performer for Winslet (both of whom were perfectly suited for those roles), and earned film festival awards in Venice and Toronto. This is a striking and unforgettable film, both creative and thoughtful. Those who are drawn to it because it was directed by Peter Jackson might be shocked by the subject matter, but they will not be disappointed with the results."
"Come with me..."
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 04/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

""How can these heavenly creatures be real?" asks Pauline in one scene of "Heavenly Creatures," the exquisite and horrifying docudrama of a real-life murder in New Zealand. Peter Jackson uses spectacular special effect, great actors, and outstanding direction to show us how these heavenly creatures became monsters.

In 1952, Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey) is a loner at her proper New Zealand school, until the day Juliet Hulme (Kate Winslet) arrives -- an intelligent, witty, daring girl who appeals to Pauline. They share a love of the arts, writing, sculpting, drawing, fantasy, and tenor Mario Lanza. Soon the two of them are nearly inseparable, spinning their fantastical tales of castles, knights, unicorns and beautiful ladies. (The foremost ladies, Deborah and Gina, are modelled on themselves) Even Juliet's four month stint in the hospital doesn't separate the girls through their letters and shared fantasies. But soon Juliet's father (Clive Merrison) becomes concerned that their close friendship is "unhealthy." It is, but not just in the way he thinks.

The two girls' emotional attachment has turned incredibly intense, so that they barely think of anyone but each other, and the fantasy stories begin to seep into reality for them . Pauline drops out of school and stops talking to her parents; Juliet learns that her mother is sleeping with one of her clients, and that her parents are divorcing. Now she's being sent to South Africa, and there is no telling when she will see Pauline again. Unless they do something about their parents so that they can stay together... such as murder.

Peter Jackson kicks off "Heavenly Creatures" by emphasizing what a beautiful, in most ways peaceful country (via a cheesy 1950s documentary). But he rapidly shows that beauty is not everything -- the complex and beautiful fantasy land of Borovnia has a sort of amorality in its stories, that reflects the girls' own minds. Their mothers are problematic -- one is selfish, the other is controlling -- but the girls begin to see them as mere obstacles to be dealt with. Jackson doesn't just show what the two did, but showed why they did it. But even then, he doesn't sugarcoat anything.

Melanie Lynskey is excellent as Pauline; she has something of the look of both a child and a woman, switching between smiles and sullenness, depending on who she's speaking to. And the luminous Kate Winslet plays the somewhat devil-may-care Juliet, whose vivacity and charm overrule any of Pauline's reservations. "It's everyone else who's bonkers!" she says gleefully when Pauline casts doubt on her own sanity. The supporting actors are also good, especially Clive Merrison and Honora Peirse as Juliet's dad and Pauline's mom, who are both concerned about their children.

The dialogue is outstanding, both chilling and simple ("Our main idea for the day was to murder Mother"; "we decided to use a rock in a stocking, rather than a sandbag..."). And Richard Taylor's handling of the CGI and prosthetics is oustanding. One particularly vivid scene has a hillside transforming into an exquisite garden. And nobody except Peter Jackson could have pulled off the idea of including living clay figurines or four-foot-wide butterflies, but somehow it not only works, but adds to the surreality of the story. Jackson's unique camerawork is here as well; if you enjoy his swooping shots and close-ups, then this will be a treat to watch.

The DVD is pretty bare-bones, unfortunately, without a "making of" or director's commentary -- or much of a look at the real-life events of this film. There are some trailers for other movies, and the trailer for this one as well. (Which is not so amazing because it wobbles a little as it played)

While Juliet went on to become bestselling murder mystery writer Anne Perry, no one is entirely certain what happened to Pauline. This movie is frighteningly vivid, beautifully made, and exquisitely directed, destined to be a modern classic."
Emme Wellington | 03/14/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"'Heavenly Creatures' is the true story of two school girls in Christchurch, New Zealand who murder one of their mothers when the two families plan to separate them.Juliet Hulme and Pauline Rieper (later revealed in the trial to be Pauline Parker, as her parents never married) quickly become best friends when Juliet's family moves to Christchurch in 1952. Pauline's family is working class; Juliet is a high-class girl. They're both lonely and creative. Their friendship becomes more obsessive and surreal every day, as they mix reality and fantasy: They create a kingdom called Borovnia, where bloodspill is common and Mario Lanza and Orson Welles make appearances. It is to this world they retreat when they wish to forget the upsets and pains of real life. Juliet and Pauline's parents soon enough become the enemies of the girls, when they plan to separate the girls. Juliet and Pauline will do anything to stay together, Pauline cooks up the idea of getting her own mother out of the way, and you can guess where it goes from there (I won't give away any more of the plot).The acting in this film is first-rate and marvelous. Kate Winslet, as always, is elegant and gorgeous. Melanie Lynskey is wonderful as Pauline; her body language and mannerisms add much to the story. In the space of only one and a half hours, you feel as if you know Juliet and Pauline as well as they know each other.(It should be noted that Juliet is now an author, working under the name of Anne Perry. Pauline is now running a children's riding school in England and goes by the name of Hilary Nathan. There are many informative sites on the internet about both the film and the real life events. If you are interested in seeing them, drop me an email at and I'll gladly send you the URLs.)"
Great movie, horrible DVD!
M. Jackson | Eugene, OR USA | 06/24/2002
(1 out of 5 stars)

"Please, save yourself some aggravation and wait for Miramax to release an official Region One DVD! Peter Jackson's luscious cinematography, originally screened in 2.35:1, when cropped to 1.33:1 is enough to make you cry. Audio is poor two-channel stereo, and there are no extra features. I purchased this Canadian import over a year ago because I love the film, but I've watched it only once because of its inferior quality. Have patience!"