Settings; Making the film; Special Effects; Favorite things

3.1.21 Settings and locations

Which location was not authentic?

[jp] Only one--the Rieper's home at 31 Gloucester St. behind CGHS no longer stood, so it was recreated on a sound stage.

3.1.22 Making the film

Who made all those plasticine models?

[aa,wb] The model makers were volunteers. Many devoted long hours to the task. Most of the members of the modelmakers' workshop were given nicknames by their co-workers, hence some of the crazy names in the credits.

3.1.23 Technical aspects and special effects.

What computer effects were used?

[sb] "Peter Jackson is vitally interested in being at the forefront of technology. While not being, as he says, especially computer literate, he has sought out and bought (with others) the latest hardware and software so that he can use the most up-to- date computer-generated special effects.

At WingNut Productions in Wellington, Jackson has installed the only complete system in the Southern Hemisphere for going (at maximum quality) from film to video, and back to film, having manipulated the video image on the computer.

The film is transferred to video at a staggeringly slow three minutes per frame (that's 12 hours for a ten-second shot!) on an Oxberry Cinescan 6300. The frame is uniformly lit by a mass of fibre optics.

The video image is sent to a Silicon Graphics computer running Renderman, Soft Image and Matador software. Here, George Port, who works with Jackson, does what manipulation is required- -be it matting in a different fragment of image, correcting a flaw (a television aerial in a period image), or morphing from a rock to a statue.

Once finished, the video image is projected onto a cathode- ray tube and filmed (by a MGI Solitaire with an Oxberry movie back) at the much faster rate of three seconds a frame. Having gone so precisely from film and back again, it has little to no video 'look', except in some areas of retouching. That in itself is not necessarily a defect for the slight artificiality can be used to noticeable effect (as in the very obviously painted lighthouse in "The Age of Innocence") or inconspicuously, as when fantastic edge blend imperceptibly with the fantasy of the film itself (as appears the case in "Heavenly Creatures")." Cinema Papers, April 1994, 97/8, pp. 20-30.

What effect was used in the second bathtub scene?

[jp,lfr] To heighten the accelerating sense of 'otherworldliness,' the second bathtub scene was shot under blue lighting with additional ultraviolet lighting, (UV light) commonly referred to as 'black lighting.' There is also a link with death--under blue lights, the girls look cold and dead, especially their dark lips (probably heightened by having red-toned lipstick, which would just appear black).

Was there another reason for using blue light? Maybe modesty--blue light is scattered much more strongly by colloidal (milky) solutions than is green or red light, so the girls' soapy bath water was much more opaque under blue light.

Were the tracks of Juliet's tears fake?

[jp] Juliet had the tracks of her tears visible on her face in the second bathtub scene. It almost looked like there were dark streaks and glowing regions. Is that fake? Or a special effect?

No. There are small peptides in tears whose function is to kill bacteria; many of these molecules absorb UV light and can be fluorescent to different degrees under ultraviolet light. Many molecules present in skin, hair, nails and, especially, teeth fluoresce quite brightly under UV light. And there are fluorescent molecules added to many soaps. Hence, it's easy to see the tracks of tears under extreme blue/ultraviolet light, even long after the tears have dried.

So, we surmise, Ms. Winslet really had been crying in that scene and quite a lot by the looks of things. Glycerine tears don't absorb UV light, and they aren't fluorescent.

Juliet's aria.

[sb] Jackson: "We were shooting in a house [Ilam] that was part of the real story in the 1950s, but in the meantime its large open balcony had been glassed in. There was no way the owner was going to let us rip the balcony out, so we shot a separate balcony that we built in a studio and matted the two together on the computer." Cinema Papers, April 1994, 97/8, pp. 20-30.

3.1.24 Favorite things and highlights

[jp] My favorite moment in Melanie Lynskey's performance comes when Pauline is having her hair combed by Hilda Hulme at Port Levy. Many important things are communicated in very few gestures and looks. I also very much liked the fights between Pauline and Honora--the tone and dynamics were very true to life. And Pauline's joy and her affection towards Juliet was very convincing in the earlier scenes. Finally, Ms Lynskey's darkness, her raw edges and impatience in the final scenes were also excellent. It almost appeared as if she had gone for weeks without sleep, like the real Pauline.

My favorite moment in Kate Winslet's performance is the scene in Pauline's bedroom the morning of the murder. "Oooh, I feel all sweaty. Do you feel sweaty? I feel all sweaty." Again, lots of important things are said around those words. Ms Winslet gave a very believable portrait of Juliet trying to convince herself, unsuccessfully, that what she was about to do was right. And I also liked the way Juliet was shown to change, very convincingly, over the two-year period of the film, her need growing progressively as her confidence crumbled. I believed Juliet's half of the relationship, too, thanks to Ms Winslet's performance.

And Sarah Peirse did a superb job of painting a sympathetic, well-rounded portrait of Honora. I particularly liked her weary dignity and her fluster when things became too complex to handle and, as I have mentioned elsewhere, the way Ms Peirse used her voice. Ms Peirse's performance in the entire last scene is superb. I imagine it was hard to film, especially in the tearooms.

My favorite technical aspect is the instant in which the sound of Juliet grabbing the branch breaks through Puccini's "Humming Chorus" in the final scene, and then is lost to the music. My favourite camera shot is the dialog-free, meandering camera shot over Honora's face in the upstairs hall as she gives Pauline a tongue-lashing. Dasent's music and Lynskey's voiceover ("how I loathed Mother...") are absolutely chilling the way they add to Bollinger's camera work. The way the viewer is led to focus on little pieces of Honora, then move on, not according to the pace of her words, not even listening to her words, in fact, but just as a study of something--this makes a very powerful impact. This may have been the moment when Honora ceased being a whole human being to Pauline, becoming just fragments and objects to be despised, and it is an eerie and extremely unsettling scene.

[aa] In the scene where Dr Hulme is meeting with the Riepers in their home, there is a wonderfully theatrical pause, along with a dramatic tracking-in of the camera, or lightning, or a burst of thunder, directly before each of his carefully-chosen key words:

"behaving in a rather...disturbed...manner"

[dp] In the scene where the girls were on the phone, crying, and Juliet's mother takes the phone and hangs it up, I was almost physically affected by their emotion--it was as if, for each of them, the other had died, and they were wailing and keening like mourners. Absolutely amazing performances, especially considering that Melanie Lynskey had never acted professionally before.

[note: I received many comments about this scene and anecdotes of similar events in people's lives. It was a scene which really struck a chord in many viewers. jp]

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