3.1.18 Good, evil, blame, conscience and love

Do these words ever appear explicitly in the film?

[jp] Good and evil: These are only mentioned, peripherally, in context of the girls' fantasies. Pauline makes one sarcastic reference to being "very good" in one diary voiceover during her drive back home from Ilam two days before the murder.

Blame: Juliet makes one oblique reference to blame, in connection with the murder. In Pauline's bedroom on the morning of the murder, she says of Honora: "I think your mother knows what's going to happen to her. She doesn't seem to bear us any grudge." This is actually a paraphrase of a statement made by the real Juliet and entered into trial testimony. See 7.6.

Conscience: This word figured very, very prominently in the real life trial and publicity, because of Pauline's diary entry made on June 20th: "Peculiarly enough I have no qualms of conscience." "Heavenly Creatures" includes this line, but edits the entry for that day. See 7.4.3.

Juliet's actions and words on the day of the murder suggest that she had severe qualms of conscience. Jackson actually uses Juliet as his inexplicably-fallible conscience in "Heavenly Creatures." She is given several opportunities to think, to equivocate and say: "Wait. Stop. Let's think of another way." She never does. In the end, Juliet just scrubs her hands obsessively like Pilate or, perhaps more accurately, like Lady Macbeth through the whole last reel--yet another oblique reference to real-life testimony. Believe it or not both names cropped up in the trial. Walsh and Jackson are amazing in their attention to artistic detail!

Love: Only one character ever says "I love you. (flush)." It is John/Nicholas to Pauline/Gina. He says it several times, but it is a pathetic, weak and whiny voice he uses every time. Compared to the feelings Pauline and Juliet have for each other, Nicholas' ludicrous and superficial declarations of love really do make him look a fool. Pauline says the word "love" once, in her voiceover of "The Ones That I Worship."

And that is it for 'love' in "Heavenly Creatures." A deeply ironic, even cynical statement by Jackson: in a film exploding with desperate passion, no-one ever says the word 'love' and means it. In real life, Pauline used the word several times in her diary entries, but in reference to... See 7.4.3.

What about concepts of responsibility and morality?

[jp] The most explicit example of black/white moralizing is provided by Rev. Norris, and we know what happened to him...

The filmmakers were careful to construct a new world with its own set of morals and sensibilities without indulging in explicit comparisons or editorializing. It is quite remarkable how easily the viewer is carried into this new morality; the extreme sympathy we end up feeling for both girls is proof that we have been relocated into their world by the film's end. As Juliet says at the final Ilam bonfire: "Only the best people fight against all obstacles in pursuit of happiness." We are almost convinced she is right. Oh... yet another direct quote from trial testimony.

In real life, the girls thought and wrote extensively about morality, religion, society and the law. The issue of their having constructed an entirely new and separate philosophy, moral code and religion for themselves was a key aspect of the defense in the trial. This philosophising wasn't made clear in "Heavenly Creatures." The girls were painted as being imaginative and fanciful but not particularly 'deep' thinkers.

Why does Juliet say "I'm sorry" in the 3rd 'ship' scene?

[jp,lfr] In the context of the film this is slightly puzzling. It could convey Juliet's extreme sympathy with Pauline, and simply be an expression of how Pauline imagines Juliet would react to the destruction of Pauline's dream of escape.

The words also convey an accusation of sorts, that the murder was really all Pauline's idea and Juliet somehow bungled her part, letting Pauline down. Note that Pauline seems to be in for the lion's share of punishment, according to that 'ship' scene; Juliet is still on the ship, after all, with her parents to console her. It almost looks for a moment as if she might be getting away scot-free.

This little detail could also be a reference to real life events that occurred after the murder, and may be the way the filmmakers summed up the emotional tone of those events without including them explicitly. It turns out that the issues of blame and responsibility played a very prominent and poignant role in the girls' arrest, interrogation and trial proceedings (see 7.4.3, 7.5).

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