3.1.3 The Prologue

What is the purpose of the opening 'newsreel' footage?

[jp] Jackson used archival film footage and archival radio recordings in the brief but powerful Prologue. This was a clever way of presenting important background information about Christchurch and about Christchurch society and its values and traditions, before the titles. He also used the Prologue to make some sarcastic statements and to provide foreshadowing, as well.

What is the archival voiceover during the prologue?

jp] "Christchurch: New Zealand's 'City of the Plains.'

"Here, when Spring comes to Canterbury, daffodils bloom gay and golden in the woodland of Hagley Park.

"Nearby are tall buildings, busy streets and the heart of the city, Cathedral Square.

"Canterbury University College: Weathered greystone buildings, shadowed cloisters. It was here Lord Rutherford began a great career.

"The Girls' High School stands in Cranmer Square.

"And not far away are the broad acres of Hagley Park, with playing fields for many sports.

"In Spring, Summer and Autumn, Christchurch gardens are gay and colourful.

"Yes, Christchurch: New Zealand's 'City of the Plai... (wooooshhh!)"

What archival footage is shown during the voiceover?

[jp] The opening shot is a Douglas DC-3 (Dakota) flying over neat, suburban, flat Christchurch.

Cut to beds of daffodils in Hagley Park, Spring, with an artist and easel. Close-up of daffodils. Couple strolling through daffodil beds of Hagley Park.

Downtown street, with trams, pedestrians milling on streets, many bicyclists, people driving on the left, very slowly and courteously.

The Cathedral, looking much older and more imposing than its actual years, with trams, cars and pedestrians [this is interspersed with new footage, aged to look archival].

Canterbury University College--the old buildings downtown.

Christchurch Girls' High School--the old buildings facing Cranmer Square with peaked brick gables, girls in school uniforms strolling outside the school.

Hagley Park playing fields: cricket, cricket again, 8-man Crew on the River Avon.

A garden in an affluent suburb, with the man of the house mowing the lawn and a toddler crawling happily over the lush lawn.

An overview of Christchurch from the foothills of Cashmere.

What is learned about Christchurch of the 50s?

[jp] We learn that the central events of "Heavenly Creatures" take place in a very small area, downtown. The girls' school was near Canterbury University College, where Dr Hulme was Rector, and both were near the Cathedral and Hagley Park. The impression we get is that Christchurch was very much a cozy, provincial, 'small town' kind of place, despite the voiceover's reference to busy streets and tall buildings (gentle humour on Jackson's part... nothing shown was over 5 floors tall).

The narrator has a 'pseudy'-BBC-Queen's English accent, and we are shown images, sports and activities which tie Christchurch firmly to the apron strings of Mother England. The Anglican Church figures prominently in the newsreel footage and, it turns out, in the real-life story.

What was the influence of the Anglican Church?

[lw] The influence of the Anglican Church on the Canterbury settlement should not be overstated. The Canterbury Company did indeed have the backing of the influential people in the Church of England and all of the first of the Company's colonists were Anglican but, apart from having the site for their Cathedral and other central-city churches set aside, the Church had no special position in the colony. Presbyterian, Methodist and Roman Catholic churches were also established in the new town in the first few years of the settlement. Indeed, when the Canterbury Company colonists arrived, they found that a group of Presbyterian Scottish families had already done their own deal with the Maoris and were settled on and farming the site of their colony.

The Deans family, who are still prominent in public affairs, had a grand establishment at Riccarton (now Riccarton Bush, an estate between Hagley Park and Ilam) which they were eventually persuaded to vacate with the offer of large tracts of land in the country, much of which they still occupy. It was the Deans who named the Avon River after a stream in Scotland, not after the Avon of the Bard.

There is a joke that the Anglican settlers created Hagley Park to insulate themselves from the dreadful Presbyterians of Riccarton.

What allusions and foreshadowing are in the newsreel?

[jp,aa] Daffodils: There is a famous photograph of a very young and innocent Juliet Hulme, much reprinted at the time of the trial and in true crime books since, where she is posing and smiling a little self-consciously in a bed of daffodils. A copy of the photograph shows up later in "Heavenly Creatures" on Pauline's bedroom wall. [aa]

Gay and Golden: A bit of a cruel joke--this is how the public would have described Juliet at the time of the trial, had they been kind enough to use modern euphemisms.

Lord Rutherford: Lord Rutherford was a brilliant and famous New Zealand physicist who, among other things, proved that the nucleus of an atom existed, that it was positively charged and it contained most of an atom's mass, but it was extremely small compared to the size of an atom. Rutherford was, by definition, the first true, modern nuclear physicist.

So, first and foremost, the reference to Rutherford is an allusion to the real Dr Henry Hulme, who was a mathematical physicist; Dr Hulme's academic discipline is never stated explicitly in "Heavenly Creatures." (see 3.2.2 and 7.10.1 for biographical information on Dr Hulme).

However, Jackson is being doubly or triply ironic in this reference. Lord Rutherford is one of two famous New Zealanders invariably brought up by proud Kiwis in casual conversation with foreigners, the other being Sir Edmund Hillary, of course (see 7.3). However, Lord Rutherford left New Zealand to pursue his career. His greatest triumphs came after he had gone elsewhere-- to England and Cambridge University, in fact. The word "began" in the voiceover is a subtle jab at Christchurch provincialism.

Cambridge also happens to be the real Dr Hulme's alma mater. Rutherford died in 1937 and Dr Hulme received his Ph.D. in 1932, so the two, no doubt, had met. It is perfectly conceivable that Lord Rutherford was an inspiration or even a mentor to the young Henry Hulme. Lady Rutherford was actually a celebrated guest at Ilam while Henry Hulme was Rector of Canterbury College. [G?]

The real Dr Hulme, of course, came to New Zealand from England, reversing Rutherford's journey in a kind of academic pilgrimage back to the source. By late 1954, however, Dr Hulme must have thought that his hopeful pilgrimage had ended in humiliating failure, shocking betrayal, and an incomprehensible murder. His bitterness was, by all accounts, unfathomably deep and all-consuming and it must have seemed to him that his life and, more importantly, his career had been utterly destroyed by his wife, by his daughter and by "that... Rieper girl."

In fact, this was not to be the case, though the real Dr Hulme couldn't possibly have known of his coming good fortune in June 1954. As it happens, Dr Hulme's career was to arise like a Phoenix, spectacularly and with the brilliance of the sun, from the ashes of his life in Christchurch. See section 7.10.1 for the surprising details.

There is, of course, a final, supremely ironic connection with Rutherford in the real Dr Hulme's later scientific triumphs. No doubt this was also appreciated by Walsh and Jackson. Christchurch Gardens: Key events were to take place in the gardens of Ilam, and in the imagined gardens of the Fourth World, and in the wildwood of Victoria Park.

The Cashmere Foothills: The perspective of the newsreel gradually moves from downtown Christchurch, through the pastoral suburbs, to the Cashmere foothills.

At this point, the film cuts abruptly, violently and ominously from the newsreel footage to the shocking and disturbing shots of the girls running, just a short distance farther up in the hills, in Victoria Park. The effect is like a punch in the abdomen.

What is shown in the screaming 'flight' sequence?

[jp] We see the two girls running up a winding wooded path, emerging at the top to find Mrs Agnes Ritchie, proprietor of the Victoria Park tea shop. This sequence is actually an accurate depiction of part of Mrs Ritchie's courtroom testimony (see 7.6).

The short 'flight' scene is, of course, a very, very important one to the film, to the story and to our understanding of the real life events. It is discussed in detail in several places in the FAQ, and a shot-by-shot description is given in section

What does the printed prologue say?

jp,sb] "During 1953 and 1954 Pauline Yvonne Parker kept diaries recording her friendship with Juliet Marion Hulme.

"This is their story.

"All diary entries are in Pauline's own words..."

Is that true?

[jp] Well--yes and no. 'Yes' the voiceover includes Pauline's diary entries but, 'no', they are not all completely accurate. Many were edited for dramatic effect, and there were many significant omissions. See 7.4.3.
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