Images and symbols
3.1.16 Fantasies, images, dreams and symbols
What did the two girls fantasize about, together?
[jp] Apart from the Fourth World and Borovnia, the girls had other shared fantasies, too.
They harbored fantasies of being successful writers.
Although the filmmakers were aware that one Heavenly Creature never lost sight of these fantasies, apparently, and spent much of her adult life chasing them down, the quote is an accurate one and is not an 'in joke' at Anne Perry's expense. See sections 3.2.7 and 7.10.2. Pauline Parker has also, apparently, spent a life close to books.
- They spoke of their fantasy of sending their work to New York
to get published, because New York was where all the book
- They eventually settled on the fantasy that "was so obvious!"
The girls would run away together to Hollywood, to have
their books made into films and themselves made into film
Did Pauline have special fantasies of her own?
[jp] Yes, Pauline also had her own fantasies in "Heavenly Creatures." According to clues offered in the narrative, these may be very important insofar as understanding the reason for the murder.
The most important of Pauline's private fantasies in "Heavenly Creatures" was the fantasy that she and Juliet were sisters. Or, put another way, to emphasize the most important aspect of her fantasy, Pauline had the fantasy that she was Henry Hulme's daughter and a member of the Hulme family. This fantasy is shown explicitly in the second and third 'ship' visions, and it is a central theme of the poem Pauline recites in the film's voiceover (see below and 7.4). Or, that is one interpretation...
What recurring images and symbols did Jackson use?
[jp] I have only made a start at cataloguing these things, and their analysis is quite cursory. Hey--I'm a scientist, not a film studies major...
The next 13 sections list the most blatant images and symbols used in "Heavenly Creatures." Obviously, (more informed) contributions here would be more than welcomed.
18.104.22.168 Legs and feet and walking and running.
Where do legs and feet feature prominently in the film?
[jp] The film opens with people strolling peacefully through Hagley Park and Christchurch, in the newsreel footage. The Prologue concludes with the jarring 'flight' sequence, intercut with the first 'ship' fantasy, both primarily shots of legs and feet, and running. The second 'ship' scene also featured legs.
The opening scenes of CGHS and Pauline all feature feet and legs, shoes, sandals, sockettes and stockings. Later, we see synchronized leg-lifts in the playful "PhysEd" sequence.
Legs and feet, by then a familiar motif, are used in agonizing, slow-motion counterpoint to their usual kinetic appearance in the final "Humming Chorus" walk.
Where does 'walking' appear in the film?
[lfr] Walking is the theme of the opening choral piece under the titles, "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" and, of course, of the closing piece under the credits, "You'll Never Walk Alone." Jackson uses walking in a reverential fashion, as a reference to religious or spiritual themes. And to the calm acceptance of destiny or fate that seems to accompany acts of faith--like showing up to the first day of school, or committing murder.
How are images of running used by Jackson?
[lfr,jp] Jackson uses legs and feet and especially running to bring across a kinetic urgency to the narrative, and to make concrete the idea that the girls are in a constant state of attempted escape from their lives, escape from their fates. They are also impatient, running toward their new life, together. In the first two ship scenes (see 22.214.171.124), Pauline is running in pursuit of Juliet, chasing the dream of a happy new life with her. Pauline bursts through the doors and runs to Juliet in the first sanatorium visit.
In addition, adolescence is a time of great, rapid change and exuberance, and the motion on the screen communicates the restlessness and energy of this period in their lives. Jackson uses running in this way in the "Princess of Ilam" scene, the "Donkey Serenade" scenes at "The Great Caruso" (running past the "Jamaica Run" poster) and the "ecstatic disrobing" sequence, the "Biggles" sequence, the "play-acting at Ilam" scenes.
Running in apprehension or fear is used in the beginning of the "Port Levy revelation" sequence, the "flight from 'It'" sequence, and in the Prologue 'flight' sequence, of course.
What can hands do in "Heavenly Creatures"?
1) Hands can work, making things, or writing.
2) Diembodied hands can reach out to grasp something, actively
seeking the future or the unknown.
3) Hands can communicate and connect two people, join people
together when hands link or touch, or caress.
4) Hands can betray.
Hands at work...
[jp] Jackson uses close-up shots of busy hands making things to communicate the excitement of creation, the joy of the arts. We see Pauline drawing, the girls painting and sculpting together and individually, making sand castles. All these scenes are happy, to begin with, but they drift a little into unsettled waters with Juliet sculpting in the sanatorium and Pauline painting severed heads (splotch!).
And we see tight shots of Pauline writing in pencil, in her exercise books, and in pen and ink, in her diaries. These shots are darker in both lighting and mood.
Christmas presents are despatched by disembodied hands.
Pauline's hands unwrap her diaries in close-up.
Hands reaching out...
[jp] These scenes with close-up shots of reaching hands stand out:
- Juliet reaches out for Honora's hand, hesitantly, when she
"Meets the Riepers" and Honora is just as hesitant in her
returning gesture. The music warns us this moment should be
remembered, for later reference.
- Juliet pauses, tearful but resolved, takes a deep breath,
reaches out her hand and commands Pauline: "Come with me."
Port Levy dissolves and becomes the Fourth World.
- John-the-boarder reaches out for Pauline's door on the night
the two are caught in bed together. His fingers are
outstretched, his reach is cautious, maybe sly, maybe
knowing, but probably not. That one, small gesture, so
ordinary and quiet, precipitates his eviction from the
Riepers, Pauline's alienation from her father, friction with
her mother, and her painful and traumatic deflowering. "I
love you (flush)."
- Nicholas reaches out for the pink gemstone on the drawbridge
of Borovnia. John's reaching out had led to sweeping changes
in Pauline's life, none of them positive, and now his
Borovnian alter-ego is lured to his death by the pink stone.
Nicholas seals his fate by pausing, and reaching out...
* Juliet reaches out for the branch in the "Humming Chorus"
walk. Pauline had walked past, unseeing, Honora had walked
past, seeing but not needing the branch, but Juliet stumbles
and falters, just for the briefest of moments. And she
reaches out to the branch to steady herself. The sound of
her hand sliding over the dry bark breaks through the
silence, and then the moment is lost, along with the small
sound of her hand. We recall the hymn under the opening
titles: "If I falter, Lord, who cares?" We do, and we are
powerless to change the course of history.
- Honora reaches out for the pink gemstone, in a terrible
parody, a very-real echo of Nicholas reaching out in
Pauline's fantasy. Her fingers are outstretched, her reach
is slow, and hesitant. But she reaches out, and maybe helps
to seal her own fate, in Pauline's imagination. It is an
excruciating shot to watch.
- Honora reaches out for help to Juliet after the first blows
are struck, in another dark parody of an earlier scene.
Juliet reaches out in return, and takes the brick from
Pauline's hands, and strikes Honora. With both hands.
Hands joining together...
- At Port Levy, the girls stand side-by-side and face Henry
Hulme, who is working, hold hands, backlit by the sun, and
find out the Hulmes are leaving on a trip to England.
- At Port Levy, in the Fourth World, in the garden by the
fountain, the girls stand side-by-side and look out over the
Port Hills and the inlet. They hold hands and we look out
over their shoulders at the island in the blue sea.
Everything was full of peace and bliss, just as Pauline
said. There was something eerie about this scene, too.
- Pauline sits on Juliet's bed and they hold hands during
Pauline's first visit to the sanatorium. Honora says the
word "letters" and Juliet pulls back her hand.
- Henry Hulme collects Juliet from the sanatorium with Pauline
in "The Ones That I Worship" scene. The girls sit together
in the back seat, and their hands steal together. Henry
adjusts the mirror and doesn't like what he sees.
- Hearing about "divorce" from Dr Hulme ("the noblest and most
wonderful person I have ever known of") the girls cling
desperately to each other's hands. Just before Pauline
leaves in the rain, their hands linger together when they
- Before their last night together, at sunset, at Ilam, the
girls stood side-by-side and hand-in-hand. We gaze over
their shoulders into the setting sun--they are back-lit--
and we see a pair of white unicorns grazing peacefully on
the lawn. We are reminded of the Fourth World at Port Levy.
[jp] Juliet scrubs her hands like Lady Macbeth through the entire last day. She begins at the Riepers' house and doesn't stop until after the first blow was struck in Victoria Park.