Freud; Horses; Birds & Butterflies; Borovnia, sex, & violence; Water & bathing Freud

Any genuine Freudian slips?

[jp] Didn't see any inadvertent revelations of unconscious thought or desires. Well, maybe Henry Hulme came close. Let's all think about that one for this evening's essay question.

OK, what about quasi-Freudian sexual symbolism?

[jp,lfr] Jackson wasn't very subtle here, but he was dealing with adolescent fantasies so there was no reason he should have been. He used the classics, tongue planted firmly in cheek..uh, so to speak: Horses and unicorns

Why were horses important in the film?

[jp] Jackson and Walsh took their cue from real life. In real life, horses figured very prominently in the case. Pauline had had riding lessons for years. Juliet did, indeed, have a horse, and she did sell it to Mr Perry for cash. Pauline bought a horse, secretly, and hid that fact from her family. There were horse paddocks adjacent to Ilam. The girls apparently snuck out for midnight rides by moonlight on several occasions, and they invited others to join them, according to Glamuzina and Laurie. The grazing fees for Pauline's horse became an issue in the Rieper home, when they were discovered. In real life, Pauline's writings figured horses very prominently as beings with personalities and passions. They were frequently very violent, and were often the agents of revenge or murder. In her real-life stories, Pauline's version of Diello, for example, was a horse named 'Vendetta.' (see 7.4.1).

Where are real horses mentioned explicitly in the film?

[jp] Late in the film we learn that Juliet had a horse, though it is not shown. She sold it to Bill Perry to raise money for the planned escape to Hollywood.

Where do horses appear in "Heavenly Creatures?"

[jp,aa] In short, EVERYWHERE. There are horses, somewhere, in just about every set and in most scenes. There are also unicorns. So, again, something factual, namely Pauline's fascination with horses, is communicated very subtly by the filmmakers, rather than as an explicit statement. [aa]

Pauline drew three horses in her French notebook (see 3.1.10).
The largest one was rearing on its hind legs, a reference to real-life fiction of Pauline Parker (see 7.4.1), and the other two had their their long manes flying in the wind. The image of the rearing horse appears elsewhere, in Borovnia, as a unicorn.

Juliet made the plasticine figures of two horses facing in opposition, with flying manes, displayed on the Ilam mantle. Pauline noticed them immediately.

There's also a horse motif at the Rieper home, as well--I've spotted three expressions of it [aa]:

Pauline and Juliet are making models of horses in the first "Donkey Serenade" model-making scene. Of course, a donkey is a kind of a horse, too. And, in real life, Pauline wrote a book called "The Donkey's Serenade."

At Port Levy, when "Charles clutched his wounded shoulder," we hear a magnificent steed snorting and panting in the soundtrack. Just before the door gets flung open, there is the shadow of a horse and rider that plays across it. Excellent little touch by the crew doing the 'miniatures.'

Juliet has plasticine figures of horses in her bedroom, on the night table. We see them in several scenes, most prominently in the birth of Diello and the enacting the Saints making love scenes. Juliet takes them, or makes others, for her room in the sanatorium.

Pauline has several plasticine figures of horses in both her bedrooms. In the outside bedroom, there are horses on the windowsill and horses in bookends. The bookends reappear upstairs, when Pauline moves inside.

Pauline has several drawings and paintings of horses on her bedroom walls. They move around as time goes by, and she carries them upstairs to the inside bedroom when she is moved. There are horse heads, rearing horses, and a pair of horses facing in opposite directions, just like the models on the Ilam mantle.

What would Freud have to say about all those horses?

[jp] Not that hard to figure out, of course. Horses are usually taken to be a sublimation of sexuality, untamed erotic passions etc and to be literal expressions of libido barely held in check and they are often used that way in literature.

What's a unicorn and how is it related to a horse?

[jp] A unicorn is a mythical beast. There is an excellent account of their history and meaning in myth in the FAQ for Ridley Scott's "Legend." Themes usually associated with unicorns are purity, innocence, conditional love, and they are often used as representations of Christ in later literature.

Where do unicorns appear in "Heavenly Creatures?"

[jp] The girls first see unicorns grazing peacefully in the Fourth World, during their first vision of the Fourth World at Port Levy. There is a statue of a rearing unicorn in the centre of the Borovnia courtyard. Another reference to Pauline's real-life fiction. After this, the unicorns reappear in a simple but very unsettling shot of the girls outside Ilam at sunset on their last evening together. The two girls are shown standing hand in hand on the lawn, facing Ilam, and the pair of unicorns is grazing peacefully on the lawn by the house. By placing the unicorns in an otherwise 'real' scene, vaguely reminiscent of Grant Wood's "American Gothic" for some reason, Jackson used them to communicate very effectively the complete melding of reality and fantasy that had taken place for Pauline and Juliet by the day of the murder.

Are there any other connections with mythical horses?

[jp] Christchurch is located in New Zealand on Pegasus Bay. Pegasus, of course, was the winged horse of Greek legend. Birds and butterflies.

Where do we see butterflies?

[jp] We see giant butterflies in the first vision of the Fourth World at port Levy. Why? Probably because they could be done on the computer system Jackson had available. They were a nice image of pretty, innocent, fantastic flying beasts but that's all I would read into them.

What is the significance of birds?

[jp] Birds, on the other hand, are of much greater significance in the film. There are three different types of references to birds in the film:

First, birds are omnipresent in the soundtrack, and their singing and calling are used very, very effectively in several scenes, especially the murder scene. After the "Humming Chorus" ends, there is a pause as the sound comes back to 'live' sound. Then there is a single, hesitant bird that calls out. And then Pauline strikes her first blow.

Second, birds are referred to in the Rieper house. There is a bird cage on the kitchen table, and Bert says he is going to build a bird house in the back. Both are oblique references to Pauline's life with her family--she already lived in a cage in the back, obviously built by her father, and her life was stifling and confining in that house.

Third, we actually see no birds at all in the film. Where are they all? They are living free. Birds are used as metaphors for Pauline and Juliet and glorious, natural freedom. Borovnia, sex and violence

Why are Borovnia and sex and violence so interconnected?

[jp] 'Hormones.' Readers who are still adolescents will have no problem seeing the connection between wild romantic fantasy, intense sexual passion, and dangerous violent excitement. The rest of us may have to cast our minds back a few years, but I am sure it will all come back. The important thing to remember is that, for most of us (and perhaps for the real Pauline and Juliet, too), such things remain fantasies--'harmless' dreams and mental exercises that are part of growing up and being human.

Besides, most of what was shown in Borovnia was scripted by the real Pauline Parker and the real Juliet Hulme, anyway.

Was all that violent fantasy all that unusual?

[jp,sb,lfr] No. The Bronte sisters had similar fantasies and wrote/ drew/ acted similar literary exercises when they were growing up. For many years, apparently.

So too, it would seem, did the Crumb family. See Terry Zwigoff's 1995 film "Crumb" about the cartoonist/graphic artist Robert Crumb and his quite ... extraordinary ... family. Water and Bathing

How does Jackson use water in the film?

[jp,lfr] Water is one of those wonderful, versatile and potent symbols much loved by writers and, especially, by filmmakers. Jackson uses water in the following ways:

Pastorally, romantically. "The Princess of Ilam" is first glimpsed over an idyllic stream, through a fountain. Classic Romantic stuff (see section 6). 'It' was thrown into the dark, swirling waters by the Ilam shrine. There were fountains and pools in the girls' vision of the Fourth World. Even Port Levy was blue and tranquil in the distance.

Playfully. Jumping off the dock at Port Levy and playing by the seaside were both there just for fun ... weren't they?

Spiritually, mystically. The Ilam bathtub scenes were mostly spiritual and religious in tone.

Domestically, oppressively. We see dishes being washed several times, including the day of the murder. We see clothes being washed in several key scenes. None of these are happy, jolly scenes--water is a shackle, an instrument of oppression in these scenes. When Pauline bathes at home she is seeking privacy and peace, but she doesn't find any.

Dramatically. 'It' is swept over a small waterfall in the night... he'll be back. Pauline bikes through a terrible downpour to get to Ilam, to hear about 'divorce' (see 7.4.3). Her hair is soaked, hanging down over her face, just the way it was when we found out how much she "loathed Mother." And then there is all that mud in the Prologue and the "Humming Chorus" walk.

Why did Jackson show the two girls bathing together?

[jp] Having Pauline and Juliet bathe together was scripted by real events. Pauline Parker made frequent reference in her diaries to bathing with Juliet, so Walsh and Jackson were forced to deal with this issue. They chose to take Pauline's cue and turn it into some of the most interesting and significant scenes in the film.

What was the dramatic progression in the Ilam bathtub scenes?

[jp] The first bathtub scene was in natural light. We see that all is pristine, white, simple--porcelain, tile, paint. Pauline is on the 'sinister' side, Juliet facing on the right. There is no motion. The voiceover is "The Ones That I Worship". There is a close-up of Pauline's brown eyes, and of Juliet's blue-grey eyes.

The second scene is by flickering candle light, and tones are orange and red. The sound is 'live' and immediate and harsh, the way sound is when it reflects from water. Pauline has just withdrawn from school and enrolled at Digby's. She is upset: "I think I'm going crazy." Juliet is in command and comfortable and still on the right side. "No you're not, Gina. It's everyone else who's bonkers!" The escape to Hollywood is hatched. With Henry Hulme, we hear the girls taking "photographs."

The third bathtub scene is by moonlight, blue and cold through the windows. The girls look like corpses. Only their heads are visible above the still, milky water. It is almost silent, but the sound is again live and harsh; we hear a tap dripping slowly, loudly. This time, Juliet is in tears and Pauline is dark, dangerous and bitter. "We don't want to go to too much trouble." All Juliet can muster is a weak and small "yes."

So what are the spiritual/mystic references?

[jp] The first Ilam bath scene is a straightforward reference to Christian baptism and rebirth and communion. Juliet had just returned from the sanatorium. The occasion was joyful but solemn, a beginning, when all things were new and untainted and everything was still possible. It was a reaffirmation, a statement of commitment, one to the other.

The second scene took place under troubled circumstances, a time when faith was being challenged and the future looked uncertain. The girls responded by grasping a little desperately at the pagan trappings of older, more primitive sects of the Church, and at empty mysticism because their faith wasn't working for them. The scene is reminiscent of the scene at the Ilam shrine. It's not that the girls were making a pact with any deity or devil, though they may have wanted to--we see that there just weren't any around to listen to their prayers. They were alone.

The final bathtub scene is even more primitive--the more desperate their straits, the farther back the girls must grasp in human spirituality for help. It is pre-Christian, a reference to Greco-Roman myths of dark, Stygian waters and death, a reference to stories and beliefs even older than that, where water is linked with life, and punishment and death. Deals might be made in such waters but there is often treachery, when dealing with old, minor gods and there is always a terrible price to pay.

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