Thursday, August 07, 2008


In the period in between his splatter-comedy beginnings and his mega-special effects blockbusters, including the much feted Lord of the Rings trilogy and somewhat overlooked The Frighteners , Kiwi director Peter Jackson made a poignant and haunting film examining two of New Zealand's most notorious murderers. This crime, committed in the 1950s, was significant for the fact that it was two women who did the deed; moreso that they were both under 17 at the time. The victim was Pauline's Mom. No I'm not spoiling the film for those of you out there, this is made reasonable clear in a chilling early scene with the terrified girls running blood -soaked through the woods, a scene which Jackson has yet to top in his career to date. Needless to say, the trial of Pauline Parker and Juliet Hume was big news in its day.

Rather than recreate the trial and the hubbub for the film, Jackson and co-writer Fran Walsh instead opt to tell the story of the budding friendship of Parker and Hume while in school in Christchurch gleaned through passages the real Pauline Parker's diary, which serve as the voice-over narration in the film. The film focuses on the creative and positive energy of the girls imagination, which results their creation of a fantasy world, which is constructed and inhabited through the birth of the Weta-Digital effects house, clearly one reason why Jackson was entrusted with umpteen millions of dollars to later create J.R.R. Tolkien's world on film. Despite containing some elements of a fantasy film, Heavenly Creatures is a rather dark look at how children's worlds are viewed (and manipulated) by society and parents, and how a deep and intimate friendship can turn sour from the anxieties and fears imprinted there-on.

The confident 'ring-leader' Juliet Hume was notably Kate Winslet's feature debut and is a compelling and bold performance which not surprisingly launched a celebrated and diverse career. While not going on to as great of heights as her co-star, the shy but perhaps stronger Pauline Parker, is played with equal conviction by Melanie Lynskey.

Rich with period detail (including a scene involving Orson Welles and the sewer chase from 1949's The Third Man is stunning stuff), compelling visuals and intimate storytelling, Heavenly Creatures is an encaptivating piece of cinema. I'd love to see Peter Jackson drop with the big blockbusters (that being said, I'm a big fan of his version of King Kong as well) and return to this type of intimate filmmaking, which may just be the case with his next film, The Lovely Bones.


Anonymous Der kleine Candide said...


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1:44 a.m.  
Blogger dr_rocwell said...

Hi Kurt!

It's Tina (The ex-co-op student from fall 2006!) How's it going?! You really are a big film buff! I was looking up some reviews for movies screening at TIFF to help my selection and planning (only 1.5 days to see everything!), and I came across your review on Twitch! Great stuff!!

My list is looking more like a documentary-list than horror/hollywood shows...Galas are a bit out of my budget....Any "must-sees" from in your expert opinion? I wonder how many movies you'll be seeing haha!

10:27 p.m.  
Blogger Kurt Halfyard said...

Well Hello there Tina. Gala's are ridiculously priced and usually not the best experience that TIFF has to offer. A lot of my TIFF coverage will find its way to TWITCH (I've already reviewed THE BROTHERS BLOOM over there, but wasn't overly thrilled by it.

The Biggies at TIFF will likely be TOKYO SONATA (the new Kiyoshi Kurosawa), I'm quite looking forward to JERICHOW (Christian Petzold is an interesting filmmaker), and I'm hoping for greatness with WHITE NIGHT WEDDING, PLASTIC CITY and UNCERTAINTY. There is also a doc on Australian Trash cinema which I'm keen on. Furthermore Hollywood biggies like BLINDNESS and THE MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA look solid, and oddities like THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE WEIRD and SYNECDOCHE NY look promising.

I hope you pack a lot into your day and a half. I'm doing the festival full-on, probably see about 40 over the course of the next 10 days.

10:56 p.m.  
Blogger dr_rocwell said...

That sounds like so much fun. I read that alot of people do this festival during their annual "vacation". But I imagine it's exhausting in a rewarding way for film addicts. My day and a half freed up pretty last-minute... no luck getting alot of the good stuff...makes for a good first time, eh? Hopefully you had better luck than me. I'll be dropping in to read your reviews here and on Twitch, to find out which Rush lines to take on. Enjoy!

7:23 p.m.  
Blogger Crazy on Bollywood said...

I’ve visit your blog first time. I can’t wait to give comment after visiting it. Nice post.

7:22 a.m.  
Anonymous Associate Producer said...

Lord of Rings trilogy was my favorite movies directed Peter Jackson. A good review on "Heavenly Creatures" movie.


9:56 a.m.  
Anonymous blauereiter said...

My goodness, is that where you get to watch your films ? Wow.

I've been wanting to watch this film for the longest time but I haven't found a video store in Japan that carry it.

2:50 a.m.  
Anonymous Alexander Roman said...


In case anybody is interested, I'm in the process of creating a documentary on Parker & Hulme along with "Heavenly Creatures" influence over the relationship and events.

1:46 a.m.  
Anonymous M. Carter @ the Movies said...

This film easily made my Top 30 all-time great films, and it's certainly my favorite Peter Jackson effort (no, I'm not a huge fan of the "LOTR" trilogy). "Heavenly Creatures" has the particular ability to creep me out every time I rewatch it, with Kate Winslet's maniacal smile and that eerie scene with the wax-like figurines in the castle. Winslet is a marvel, but I fear her performance overshadowed that of Melanie Lynskey -- her line delivery is positively chilling.

12:31 p.m.  

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