3.1.7 The Hulmes' home - Ilam

Where was the Hulmes' home located?

[jp,ad] Ilam was (and still is) owned by the University of Canterbury (then Canterbury university College). In the early 50s it was used for official entertaining as well as for housing the Rector and the Rector's family. Its gardens were beautiful and locally-renowned. It is a spacious, elegant homestead in an idyllic, spectacular setting. It is located on the present grounds of The University of Canterbury, about 4 km west of Pauline's house, in a well-to-do neighbourhood.

At the time shown in "Heavenly Creatures," the College had purchased lands surrounding the Ilam homestead but there was only one College department there--the School of Fine Arts, whose students were mostly young women. Nearby, the land was still in the form of paddocks, for horses, and farmland. Ilam was on the outskirts of Christchurch then, and the countryside was a short bike ride away.

However, in "Heavenly Creatures," we get the impression that Ilam is a fairy-tale house set off all by itself, far from the world.

Who lived in the Hulmes' home, Ilam?

[jp] At the beginning of the film, Ilam is occupied by Dr Henry Hulme, Hilda Hulme, Juliet Hulme and Jonathon Hulme.

Later, Bill Perry moved into a semi-private 'flat' at Ilam. The North American release version of "Heavenly Creatures" is not very explicit about Bill Perry's moving in, or about the date.

What was the layout of Ilam?

[jp] We see that there is a spacious, wood-panneled front hallway. Walking in the front door, there is a sitting room with fireplace to the right and a dining room to the left. Ahead on the left is the stairway leading up to Juliet's bedroom at the head of the stairs. Upstairs, to the left is the bathroom, with the large cast-iron tub, big enough for two, ahead was Juliet's bedroom and to the right was Hilda Hulme's bedroom. We do not see Henry Hulme's bedroom. Mr Perry's rooms could be reached from inside the house, though it isn't clear where they were located.

What were the living arrangements at Ilam?

[jp] All Ilam occupants had their own bedrooms. Although not made clear in "Heavenly Creatures" it is likely that Pauline also stayed in a separate guest room when she slept over at Ilam, by inference from her real-life diary entries.

In fact, it was clear that everyone slept alone at Ilam. For all of its opulence, Ilam was a house of lonely, compartmentalized solitude in the dark of night. It struck me that all doors were shut in the night scenes in Ilam. Perhaps this is one reason why Juliet and Pauline's sleeping together was so noteworthy; it was the only open example of nocturnal affection to be seen at Ilam.

How did Ilam compare to the Riepers' home?

[jp,mf,sb] To Pauline, Ilam really must have looked wonderful, in the true sense of the word. We don't see them, but there were part- time house staff (Juliet and Pauline mention the housekeeper), and gardeners, employed by the University.

The contrast between the refinement and luxury of Ilam and Pauline's home couldn't have been more extreme. No wonder Pauline chose to spend so much time with Juliet at Ilam.

There was one major structural change made to Ilam in the intervening years, and this was taken into account using special effects (see 5.5). Today, it is the University Staff Club.

Were there any pets at Ilam?

[jp] Juliet is greeted on her return from the sanatorium by a yellow labrador retriever. The dog was in one of the 'holiday snapshots' from the beach at Port Levy, too. This agrees with Hilda Hulme's trial testimony.

Jackson probably didn't know this when he made "Heavenly Creatures," but Anne Perry now keeps two cats and three dogs, including a yellow lab, in her home in Scotland (see

What was the name of the Hulmes' home at Port Levy?

[jp] Christmas Cottage.

Did the Hulmes have a car?

[jp] Yes, a blue sedan (Austin?). We see it in the first few shots after the titles, throughout the film and again on the day of the murder near the end of the film.
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