Bricks and shrines, colours, uniforms, bridges, telephones Bricks and shrines

Where do bricks appear?

[jp,lfr] We first see bricks in the shrine at Ilam: it is made of bricks, and panes of glass, and candles. A very auspicious and deeply ironic reference by Jackson to later appearances of bricks in the film... or is it? This is another incidence of life being more ironic and cruel than art could pretend to be. Trial testimony stated that piles of bricks were scattered in the gardens of Ilam, and that the shrine constructed by the real Juliet and the real Pauline was made of bricks. We next see bricks in a pile by the side of the garage, while the two girls stand in the twilight in front of a bonfire. It is the beginning of their last night together at Ilam. On the morning of the murder, Juliet collects a half-brick from that pile by the garage. Honora is murdered with the half-brick in Pauline's stocking and the image of the brick has come full circle--from the mystical to the grotesquely prosaic. Colours

How does Jackson use colours?

[jp] Pretty crudely, actually, but in a way that seems appropriately adolescent, somehow, and straightforward. Thematically, colours are used in very conventional ways in "Heavenly Creatures."

What colours are used thematically in the film?


Yellow(gold):   Daffoldils bloom gay and golden in the Prologue. The Princess of Ilam first appears like a vision in a flowing, golden dress. Pauline uses bright yellow for Juliet's hair in her pictures of her, and for the stars around her head and for their stars in Hollywood. On "The Loveliest Night of the Year" Juliet appears in a gold lamé gown, and sweeps Pauline off to Borovnia. Gold is for desire. Juliet's hair is golden.

White:   "Mummy" is dressed all in white in an elegant white skirt, white jacket, white hat with white veil, white pearls and white gloves in the 'ship' scenes. The first time we see Hilda Hulme at Ilam she is dressed in the same outfit, all in white. Doris Day is in white on Steve's record and, damn! her teeth are white. The girls wear blinding white shirts in their school uniforms and white underthings in "The Donkey Serenade"--that was their first kiss, remember? Their religious experiences are accompanied by blinding flashes of white light, and there is that wonderful shot of "the way through the (white, white, white) clouds" on the drive home from Port Levy. The unicorns are pure, snow white. The bathroom in Ilam is pure white--white tiles, white paint, white tub. Juliet's room is decorated in white. The sun breaks through, blinding white, in the last, agonizing "Humming Chorus" walk, and flashes of white obscure the view from time to time. White is for purity, for innocence, for the unattainable that must be sought, for the ideal, for deserving goals, for wonderful visions, for desperate faith. For 'good'?--Not necessarily.

Black:   Black is for balance, for sobriety, and for mourning. The Mistresses at school wear black gowns. Rev Norris wears black. Hilda Hulme is in black at Juliet's homecoming from the sanatorium, a reference to the real Hilda Hulme's trial testimony where she said, in essence, that her daughter's love for her had died while she had been abroad. Pauline is dressed all in black sitting at her desk in Digby's, and we pull back to see a room full of tired, hopeless women, not all of them young, all dressed in basic black. At the final bonfire where the girls burn the trappings of their innocence and their old lives and their ties to the real world they are both dressed in black. Pauline is wearing black as she "helps Mother vigorously" the morning after her return home from Ilam. Juliet is wearing black on the Ilam balcony in Pauline's vision, singing the mournful and beautiful "Sono Andate" the day before the murder. Pauline wears a black sweater on the day of the murder. Pauline is dressed in black from head to toe in the final 'ship' vision in that terrible, long, screaming fade-to-black. Black is for 'evil'? That is for the viewer to decide. Pauline's hair is black.

Red:   Red is for danger. The front doors of CGHS are fire- engine red. Maybe that was coincidence. Pauline's bedroom door was red. Pauline clutched Mario Lanza's record "The Student Prince," with its bright red jacket, to her heart. Diello was born a red cushion. Juliet coughed up spatters of bright red blood. And Pauline only needs red paint for her pictures at school (splotch!--we get a whole screen of red). Pauline's dress had red roses on it in her first Borovnian vision, the one she had when she was in bed with Nicholas. Juliet was knitting for Pauline in the sanatorium--bright red: "I love the colour!" Gina's velvet gown on "The Loveliest Night of The Year" was deep, luxurious, wine-red. "The Student Prince" is burned at the final bonfire. Juliet's lips are bright, blood red when she she sings in Pauline's vision. The bus that takes the girls and Honora to their terrible fate is red. And blood, real blood, is startling and deep in its redness.

Green:   Green is used for apprehension and mystery. It isn't that far removed from blue, though, is it? Nicholas sneaks into Pauline's room and then is caught, by green moonlight. When Pauline is separated from Juliet she lies on her bed under blue-green light and declares "the thought of death is not fearsome." The Riepers' bathroom is painted green and we see Pauline there just before we hear how she "loathes Mother." Juliet was sneaking around in Ilam by green moonlight just before "the balloon has gone up."

Blue:   Jackson uses pallid, cold blue lighting for death [lfr]. When the girls enact how the Saints would make love, they do so under blue light, and green light. The final bathtub scene is shot in a cold blue light and the girls look like corpses. Uniforms

Anything unusual in Jackson's use of uniforms?

[jp] No. School uniforms have been discussed previously (see in terms of the ways they are used in real life by real students.

Jackson also used uniforms as a way of showing the importance of school in the girls' lives--most scenes in the first half of the film have the girls in their school uniforms even though they are hardly shown in school.

Uniforms are used as a symbol of social pressures to conform, yet the girls are shown slipping out of the confining bounds of society, dressed in uniform but not bound by convention.

Pauline's school uniform gradually becomes more confining and oppressive, however, and her appearance more sloppy and rebellious.

And the rigid conformity shown by the 'uniforms' in Digby's is a reminder to Pauline and to us that the real world doesn't give up the fight easily. Bridges

Where do bridges appear and how are they used?

[jp] Bridges are literally the physical mechanisms used to join one place to another across an obstacle or a divide. Jackson used bridges in a pretty conventional, literal way in "Heavenly Creatures."

Pauline's first glimpse of "The Princess of Ilam" is of Juliet standing at the crest of a bridge between reality and fantasy in the fountains and gardens of Ilam. What a beautiful vision--Pauline didn't hesitate for a moment: she left reality far behind her.

Pauline had to cross a drawbridge in her vision of Borovnia to get inside the kingdom and be with her fantasy family. She didn't hesitate for a moment. She turned her back on reality without a second thought.

Nicholas is lured to his death by a small pink stone on the same drawbridge. He dies by Diello's hand, and the pink stone is flung, and lands in the real world, rolling across the planking of a real bridge to the feet of Juliet and Pauline. The drawbridge worked both ways--fantasy was made concrete and real.

Honora was killed in Victoria Park just past a small, rather pathetic little wooden bridge. But she crossed it. Pauline hoped against hope that this bridge would let her escape reality. She used her magic stone.

Who or what was the obstacle?

[jp] Honora, identified as such in Pauline's diary voiceover. Juliet says: "Only the best people fight against all obstacles in pursuit of happiness." Another direct quote from real life. Telephones

How does Jackson use telephones?

[jp] Real life testimony mentioned the enormous importance of telephones to Pauline and Juliet. Jackson and Walsh took the cue, but they decided to use phones in a specific way.

In "Heavenly Creatures" telephones are used to emphasize and foreshadow separation, not as symbols of communication or as a way of making a connection. Phones are a poor second-best compared to being together, resorted to in times of necessity. They never brought good news or laughter or joy in the film. A few points stand out:

Pauline hears of Juliet's TB over the phone. The camera pulls back as Pauline has "a terrible job not to cry" and shows us she is quite alone.

Then there is that remarkable, heart-wrenching scene that seems to affect so many viewers, the one with the two girls clinging to their phones as if to each other, sobbing and vowing "we won't be separated." The mothers are both standing by to pry their daughters away...

Finally, though we don't see it, we hear that the final details of the murder are decided and crystallize over the phone.

Back Forward