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January 1995, Week 3


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Jeremy Butler <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 20 Jan 1995 16:42:08 CST
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In article <[log in to unmask]>,
[log in to unmask] wrote:
> I don't recall seeing any extended discussion on HEAVENLY CREATURES, the
> New Zealand film about two girls who plot a murder (from a real-life story).
> Any thoughts?  I've been struck by how reviewers seem to react to the film
> based on their own preconceptions, eg. the girls are monsters, the girls
> are innocents who make a disastrous mistake, the girls are victims of an
> oppressive society/family structure, etc.  How do others on the list see
> the film?  (assuming you *have* seen it)
> --Don Larsson, Mankato State U., MN
Hi, Don.  I don't know what the correct netiquette is for moderated
groups, so I'll just assume that if the Moderator doesn't like this, he
won't post it. (Please accept my apologies - you, the group and the
Moderator - if I'm doing the wrong thing here).
There has actually been quite a bit of decent discussion of the film in -
I think - rec.arts.movies and bit.listserv.cinema-1.  Also, not a bad
review (which I thought didn't suffer particularly from the
"preconceptions" you mention above) in the movie review group.
I haven't read many reviews, but I'm surprised that you've come across
reviewers trapped within their own preconceptions - my own feeling about
the movie is that Jackson did an excellent job of conveying what I presume
he intended to convey: the ease with which anyone can slip over from
fantasy to psychosis. (Maybe this reflects *my* preconceptions?!)  Nothing
about the girls is very unusual, apart from their extraordinarily fertile
imaginations and the fact that instead of just wanting to kill Pauline's
mother, they actually did it.  Speaking as a female, I thought Jackson
conjured up the internal life of female adolescence brilliantly - I was
surprised to feel so many moments of (slightly horrified) recognition when
I watched it. I also thought he did a great job on their sexuality - in
terms of the intensity of adolescent friendships or "crushes".  He managed
to avoid the mistake made at the time - of blaming their "deviant"
sexuality for their crime, and the mistake made more recently, where
people seem to want to, for presumably political reasons, "claim" the
girls as lesbians.  As I say, they seem like pretty normal, albeit
imaginative, teenagers to me. In fact, I'd blame rampant hormones if
anything...Perhaps it's an object lesson in the advisibility of authority
figures finding a way to channel the average teenager's capacity for
intense enthusiasms into socially acceptable and constructive avenues?
As to the "oppressive society/family structure" - I haven't seen any
reviews which talk much about it.  Everybody here knows that Christchurch
in the 1950s was probably the most boring place in the world - my mother
(who was brought up there) said it was so conformist that you could
practically get taken off for shock treatment for being a sloppy
housewife. But I know of another woman who was at Christchurch Girls at
the time of the murder and was very disappointed with the movie - saying
it didn't reflect her experience of school, or Christchurch, at all.
Anyway, if an oppressive society and/or family structure a murderer makes,
Christchurch in the 1950s (and a lot of other places) would have been a
killing field... It's interesting that people so often seem to go for this
one when analysing murderers.  What I find fascinating is why some
individuals in a given set of circumstances choose murder, when most of us
would either discard, or never entertain the possibility.
Sorry - this turned out to be a long post.  But you did say "extended"
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