The Murder and Aftermath

3.1.17 The murder

What 'facts' are shown about planning the murder?


What 'facts' are shown about the preparation for the murder?


What 'facts' are shown about events up to the murder?


What was shown during the "Humming Chorus" walk?


What 'facts' are shown about the murder itself?


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 film.

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. The aftermath (Prologue)

What is shown in the "flight scene" of the Prologue?


What 'facts' about the aftermath are shown in the film?


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.

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