The Murder and Aftermath
3.1.17 The murder
What 'facts' are shown about planning the murder?
- Pauline conceived of the murder and she chronicled everything
in her diary.
- Initially, Pauline expressed a wish or desire that her mother
should die, because she saw her mother as an 'obstacle,' but she
did not state anything beyond that.
- Pauline did not tell Juliet of her desire to murder Honora for
some time, until a few days before the murder.
- The murder was planned by both girls during their final visit
together at Ilam. Juliet was portrayed as being completely distraught,
tearful at the prospect of separation and almost reluctant. Certainly
not the instigator. By that time Pauline was calculating, harsh,
cynical and possibly not well-grounded in reality. We are shown
several scenes suggesting that Pauline's perceptions of the world
were quite distorted. What we see does not match her words.
- The method and weapon used were planned ahead of time, in detail,
in the day or two before the murder and the murder was eventually
carried out very much as planned.
What 'facts' are shown about the preparation for the murder?
- Juliet chose a half-brick for the murder weapon from a pile of
bricks near the Ilam garage, wrapped it in a newspaper and brought
it to the Riepers' house inside her purse.
- In her bedroom, Pauline put Juliet's half-brick in one of her
stockings, knotting it to keep the brick from coming out; this
was to be the murder weapon.
- Pauline placed the murder weapon in her school satchel and carried
it the murder scene.
What 'facts' are shown about events up to the murder?
- Pauline is shown writing an entry in her diary headed "The Day
of the Happy Event" in bed before getting up.
- Ticking watches and clocks give the times of all important events
on June 22, 1954.
- Juliet collected the half-brick and then was dropped off, by her
father, by shops near the Riepers'. She walked to the Riepers'
after shopping for "fruit."
- Honora prepared lunch, which appeared jolly, and Bert, Wendy,
Honora, Juliet and Pauline were present. Bert and Wendy went back
to work. Bert said "good-bye" but he turned and looked at his
wife, briefly, before he walked out the door. Honora and the girls
- Honora and the girls walked to Cathedral square and caught a #2
bus (Cashmere) to go to Victoria Park.
- Honora and the girls walked from the bus terminal up to the tearooms
at Victoria Park for tea and cakes before the murder. Honora had
tea, the girls had (orange) soft drinks. There were only a couple
of other people in the tearooms. Honora had cakes.
What was shown during the "Humming Chorus" walk?
- The three went through a gap in the hedge/wall near the teashop
and started to walk down a muddy dirt path into Victoria Park.
- Pauline was leading, Honora came second and Juliet took up the
- Pauline and Honora walked across a small wooden bridge; it looked
more like planking laid into the path than a bridge.
- Juliet dropped the pink stone on the path to distract Honora on
the way back. "The Humming Chorus" ended, there was a quiet pause
and the soundtrack went back to immediate, live sound with no
music. A few birds called out.
- Honora was calm and composed and quite cheery, giving motherly
advice to Juliet to button up her coat (she did, but her eyes
were a million miles away).
- Honora looked at her watch (3:18 p.m.) and suggested they turn
back so they wouldn't miss their bus.
- Pauline, standing behind Honora as they started back, pointed
out the pink stone to her mother: "Look!, mother!" Honora bent
down to examine it. Pauline reached into her school satchel. She
had determination on her face, but we find out it was fragile.
The camera zoomed in on the tam on the back of Honora's head.
What 'facts' are shown about the murder itself?
- Pauline swung the brick and struck the first blow to her mother,
from behind, onto the right rear of Honora's head (the blow lands
off camera). Honora cried out and we see her fingers drop the
stone. Honora fell forward, face downward, head uphill, onto her
hands and knees.
- Pauline was shown crying after the first blow, obviously regretting
her action. However, once the deed was started, she and Juliet
carried on until her mother was dead.
- Honora was hurt but not rendered unconscious by the first blow,
or by the second, or the third or the fourth. All four blows were
from Pauline, swinging the brick.
- After the fourth blow we are shown Honora, now bleeding quite
profusely onto her face from unseen wounds on the back of her
head. Honora is shown falling forward again, face- down onto the
ground. She has been moaning, wailing and crying out pitiously
all this time, in obvious pain.
- Juliet is shown returning. Honora pleads with her, reaching out
her hand. Honora's face and hand are bloody. Juliet reaches out...
- Juliet reaches out, but to Pauline. We see that Pauline is blood-spattered,
slightly, on her face and hand. Juliet takes the brick from her.
- Pauline goes down and struggles. We see her grasp Honora by the
back of her neck and hold her, face down, against the ground.
- Juliet is shown wielding the brick in both hands. She strikes
Honora (off camera) once.
- We see, briefly, Pauline holding down a struggling Honora, still
face down on the ground.
- Juliet strikes a second (off-camera) two-handed blow.
- Pauline raises her head and we see she is now covered in blood
on her own head.
- Juliet strikes a third (off-camera) two-handed blow.
How accurate are the 'murder facts' shown in the film?
[jp] A detailed comparison is given below in section 4.7, but to summarize: the majority of 'facts' shown by Jackson about
the events of June 22, 1954 conformed to facts entered into testimony
during the girls' trial.
But is the film's version of the murder accurate?
[jp] Ah! This is a very different question. It is explored in
much more detail below in section 4.7. The short answer is, surprisingly: No.
Qualitatively, emotionally, the murder shown may be similar in
some respects to the actual murder, but there are many details
and complexities omitted by Jackson.
What was the motive for the murder?
[jp] Jackson's statements at the beginning of this section are
pretty consistent with the superficial facts presented in the
Ultimately, in "Heavenly Creatures," Jackson chose to describe
events without providing a statement of a clear, rational motive
for Honora's murder from any of the characters, including Pauline.
Pauline stated, in her diary voiceover, that she thought of her
mother as being "an obstacle" but, really, this is a terribly
obscure reference. We are not told anything concrete by Pauline
that would provide a convincing motive for a crime of this magnitude.
Pauline never says, explicitly, what process or action Honora
is being an "obstacle" against, though we infer it is Pauline
going away with Juliet. The closest we get is Pauline's statement
that, for her to get a passport before the age of 20, she would
have to get her "sodding parents' consent."
Why did Jackson choose to omit a clear motive?
[jp] A motive was presented during the trial and there was also
one voiced in the court of public opinion in real life. Jackson
obviously does not believe these motives are completely credible.
However, it has to be said that his film superficially conforms
quite closely to the motive proposed by the prosecution, namely,
that Pauline and Juliet were completely overwrought at the thought
of being separated and they saw Honora as the person standing
in the way of their being together. However, the prosecution implied
the girls were lesbian lovers; Jackson does not seem to accept
that as either true or a reason for murder.
Does shutting your eyes help during the murder scene?
[jp] Absolutely not. In fact, the murder is probably more horrific
to people who have shut their eyes and who must imagine what is
happening from what is heard on the extraordinary sound track.
Although the murder is probably one of the most visceral and emotionally-graphic
murders I have seen on screen, it is also, perversely, one of
the least explicitly violent (no blows are actually shown landing
on poor Honora) and one of the least bloody. The blood shown is
actually very realistic, nothing like the over-the-top gore-fest
for which Jackson is renowned. The only graphic scene of extreme
gore connected with the murder is the brief shot we see of the
girls at the tearoom, long after the murder has taken place: they
have spatters and streams of blood on their faces. We might even
think at that time that they have been injured somehow and the
blood is theirs. Later, of course, we come to fully appreciate
that the blood was entirely Honora's.
How is sound used in the murder scene?
[jp] In a word, brilliantly. The use of sound in the whole last
act is masterful--through the entire film, in fact. The emotion
of the scene is painted almost entirely through the presence and
absence of sound, the stunning soundtrack (see 3.1.19), the superb sound effects and the tight sound editing. Gold
star from me, for the sound.
Particularly noteworthy are the way that the commingling of fantasy
and reality is conveyed, the way we experience the girls' unsuccesful
attempts to detach themselves emotionally from the events, and
especially the way we share Honora's realization and her horror
through her terrible cries. It is true that good sound can bypass
conscious rationalization in the viewer and strike at a deeper,
more primitive level of understanding. This certainly is the case
in "Heavenly Creatures." The audience has no quick defense against
the sound used in the murder scene and it is a profoundly unsettling
experience. Exactly as Jackson intended.
126.96.36.199 The aftermath (Prologue)
What is shown in the "flight scene" of the Prologue?
- The archival soundtrack distorts, dissolves into a roaring sound
and screams gradually break into the foreground sound.
- We smash through trees and foliage from the perspective of the
runners, a steadicam shot.
- Cut to a long tracking shot from below/behind, our view obscured
by foliage, of the girls running up an inclined path through the
woods. Juliet, in her grey coat, is leading. Pauline, in her brown
coat, follows. We can only see the motion and the coats and hear
- Cut to close-up of legs, running, stumbling, bloody and muddy.
We see shoes. The sound is immediate, foreground sound; we hear
branches being hit, mud squirting.
- Cut to sepia legs running on a wooden deck, through streamers
and the bars of a railing. The sound is a musical score--strings.
The absence of foreground sound is startling.
- Cut to bloody legs, running, feet and, prominently, brown school
sandals and socks. The soundtrack is foreground sound, screaming,
- Cut to sepia torso side shot of Juliet, in a print dress running
in front of Pauline, in a white summer blouse and skirt. Both
are smiling as they run on deck, brushing aside streamers; the
railing is prominent.
- Cut to a 'parallel' torso side shot of the girls running through
foliage, breathless, in panic. And that soundtrack.
- Cut to shot from behind Pauline, looking forward. We see her black
hair flying, her brown cloth coat and Juliet in front.
- Cut to front shot, sepia, on the deck. Juliet is in front; she
waves and laughs and calls out "Mummy!" Pauline bobs into view
from behind, with the same laughing and waving. She cries out:
"Mummy!" Juliet turns to look at Pauline. Their voices are the
only foreground sounds. Everything else is silence.
- Cut to see a couple standing at the rail. The man is coated, hatted,
the woman is dressed all in white. They begin to turn. There is
a huge, growing wind sound.
- Cut to the final dash. First, a steadicam shot around a hedge;
we see a woman running down the steps toward the camera. Then
a jerky handheld camera shot from the woman's perspective. The
girls run up to the camera and we see their faces for the first
time. They are both covered in blood and gore on their faces and
their hands. Pauline cries out: "It's Mummy! She's terribly hurt!"
Juliet puts her face into the camera and screams: "Help us!" By
the end of the film we will find out that this is the only time
Pauline will refer to Honora as "Mummy"... every other time it
What 'facts' about the aftermath are shown in the film?
- The girls both ran screaming and completely hysterical back up
the path to the teahouse.
- The teahouse proprietor ran out to encounter the girls, who were
covered in spattered gore on their faces and clothes and Juliet's
hands are also shown covered in blood.
- Pauline cried out "It's Mummy! She's terribly hurt!" Juliet cried
out for help.
Are these 'facts' accurate?
[jp] These 'facts' of the aftermath match parts of Mrs Agnes Ritchie's
statements made to police, section 7.5.1, but there was much more to the aftermath, of course. See section
4.7 and 7.3.