Conclusions about the relationship

What were the girls' stated sexual preferences?

[jp,lfr] When the girls were on the beach at Port Levy, imagining Charles' and Deborah's wedding night, Pauline imagined Charles "ravishing her!" Juliet responded: "Oh, yes! I bet she gets up the duff their first night together." This and many other romantic imaginings mentioned by the girls seem like enthusiastic endorsement of heterosexual sex. They often placed themselves in erotic heterosexual situations in their Borovnian reveries. On the face of it, this kind of statement would also fly in the face of the assertion that the girls were sexually ignorant or naive. Deleted scenes from the early draft of the screenplay have the girls discussing sex more frequently and more graphically, and they discuss the sex manuals that were part of Hilda Hulme's 'family planning' and counseling activities at the Marriage Guidance Council. This could have just indicated interest in sex, not knowledge of it, of course. Obviously, the filmmakers chose to portray the girls' sexual innocence in a more explicit way in the final release version of the film. However, when faced with the physical reality of sex, the girls' preferences became more ambiguous. For example, Pauline was clearly very ill-prepared for her sexual encounter with John; she had some vague, idealized notions that had nothing, really, to do with sex. And she was probably motivated more by a desire to defy her parents than by physical desire for John. The whole process was profoundly unpleasant in the extreme for her, and even quite traumatic. See for more on this scene. This experience was not to become a ringing endorsement of sex with boys. But did this bad heterosexual experience drive Pauline into Juliet's understanding arms? Apparently not, or at least not for about one whole year. It was a very critical scene. However, nearly one year later, Pauline described her sexual experiences with Juliet in completely different terms from the way she had described her encounter with John--with Juliet it was "Wonderful! Heavenly! Beautiful! and Ours!" Pauline was certainly in a position to compare and contrast, and her preference seems pretty clear from her comments. Unless, of course, she really couldn't tell the difference between Juliet and the Saints of her imagination. Juliet's preferences or comments aren't stated explicitly. We only have her expressions to read. When she makes love to Pauline, they are clearly ones of tenderness and pleasure but, ultimately under the stated circumstances, they are formally as ambiguous in their interpretation as Pauline's.

But there is more to life, and love, than sex...

[jp] Yes, and we must bear this in mind when considering the girls' relationship in "Heavenly Creatures." On the other hand, FAQ readers are invited to cast their minds back to their own adolescence... as I recall, the spiritual and the physical did tend to get all mixed up together, and it was a heady mix. But it is still probably a good idea to keep pure, breathless romance in the back of our minds as we consider the big picture in the sections ahead.

What does the narrative state about the relationship?

[jp] There is reasonably strong narrative evidence (see also, i.e. Jackson's 'official' point of view, pointing to the following 'on-balance' conclusion: the girls were not lesbians, despite the physical evidence that might be interpreted superficially to the contrary. Furthermore, the relationship was unequal; Pauline's view of it differed from Juliet's. At least in terms of the part of their relationship that led to murder. The film's narrative evidence suggests Pauline was desperately attracted to an idealized version of the Hulme family and the life they represented (see, and she imagined herself to be the dear, close, loving sister of Juliet and part of the Hulme family. There are a few important counter arguments, however, suggesting that Pauline was attracted to and in love with Juliet in a romantic and erotic sense. Juliet, on the other hand, was desperate for the constant affection of a true soul mate and loving sister. She was traumatized by the accumulated rejection of her family and by the tremendous, overwhelming new upheaval taking place within her family, and she turned to the unquestioning love and devotion of Pauline for solace. Similarly, in opposition to this conclusion, there are a few strong pieces of evidence that Juliet was in love with Pauline, especially her jealousy in the sanatorium.

What does the music state about the relationship?

[lfr] There is strong evidence (see 3.1.19) that the musical clues p int to an intense romantic attraction of Pauline for Juliet. The story is almost exclusively told from Pauline's perspective, and the important musical clues also point to Pauline's emotions. Hence, the conclusion to be drawn from the music is that Pauline's 'diagnosis' by Dr Bennett and his allies was, in fact, correct. Pauline fell deeply, passionately and desperately in love with Juliet in a grandiose, operatic, adolescent way that progressed well beyond a simple crush. She placed Juliet on a pedestal and became progressively more blind to everyone but Juliet and everything but her love and devotion for Juliet. The music has little to say about Juliet's feelings, except that she became overwhelmed, numb and utterly accepting of the inevitability of Honora's tragic murder in the last scene.

Does a consistent picture of the relationship emerge?

[jp] No. The objective statements made by the characters point to a 'majority' opinion that Pauline was a lesbian attracted to Juliet, with some abstentions. The subjective interpretation of the film's narrative points to an unusual, intense, unequal sisterhood between the girls. The subjective interpretation of the musical score points to Pauline falling desperately in love, romantically, with Juliet. Is Jackson having more fun at the expense of the confused audience? Maybe. Or, it could be he is hedging his bets on this important and controversial matter, despite what he has said in press interviews.

What do I think? (as of ver. 2.0)

[jp] On balance, despite Jackson's conscious att mpts to avoid and obscure the issue, I think "Heavenly Creatures" really does paint a portrait of two young people who fell in love, romantically, unequally and at paces that differed. The circumstances in their lives, and especially their enforced separations, merely strengthened and confirmed their love for each other, which grew after their initial infatuation. It is an intriguing question to ask if infatuation would have changed to love had things been different in their lives. Perhaps. Was this 'real' love? I think it certainly seemed to be to Pauline and Juliet, even if they could never put a name to it, themselves. So, if they couldn't, do we dare? Sure. Perhaps their love was based more on mutual and different needs and less on mutual and ideal celebration of pure and noble pursuits, but does this distinction matter when you are fifteen? They stayed loyal and in love for years, at a time in their lives when they might have changed partners and affiliations weekly or even overnight. Was their love innocent? Yes, and it was passionate and it was physical, too. It was everything love is, at that age, for most people and perhaps more. Jackson and Lynskey and Winslet managed to convey very convincingly this "intensity" and how the girls believed that what was right, for them, had to be right in an absolute sense, without concern or heed to what society said. This quite extraordinary strength of conviction and naivite may have even been assets and a wonderful thing for the girls; it was also the seed of their tragedy, of course, according to "Heavenly Creatures." Was their love good and right? We want it to be and through much of the film it seems to be. "Heavenly Creatures" doesn't necessarily say the murder was an inevitable and completely conditional consequence of the girls falling in love. Was it tragic? Yes. A woman died. Was it this way in real life? See 4.6.

Is understanding the relationship important?

[lfr] The one inescapable fact is that the two girls, together, murdered a woman. Understanding how one girl could be convinced to perform murder by the other can never be achieved without understanding the relationship between the two. A casual acquaintance who is not legally insane will not perform murder as a favor. Whatever the relationship was, it is at the core of the reason for the murder.

Are other relationships also important?

[jp,G?] Absolutely. This is Glamuzina and Laurie's central t esis regarding the reason for the murder (see 7.8.2 and 7.7.6). Contributions are encouraged regarding the other relationships between the central characters.

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