3.1.9 Diaries, letters and fiction

Which girl kept a diary?

[jp,mf,G?] In "Heavenly Creatures" we see Pauline receiving a 1953 diary during Christmas 1952, and another 1954 diary at Christmas 1953. The voiceover is Pauline reading excerpts from her diary.

In reality, both girls may have kept diaries, according to persistent rumour. Quotations from both were entered into evidence during their trial (see 7.6) but it turns out that the quotes from Juliet's diary were simply misrepresentations of evidence during the trial. There is no physical evidence, officially, that Juliet ever kept a diary, though in real life Pauline Parker referred to Juliet Hulme's diary in many places in her own. Persistent and published rumour has Juliet's diary and writings being destroyed at Ilam on the night of June 22, 1954.

Jackson, ever the imp, actually has Juliet writing in a bound journal/exercise book during her stay in the sanatorium, and there is a bound journal on her bedtable in several scenes in the sanatorium and at Ilam. Pauline actually reads silently from the journal, briefly, when she comes to visit Juliet in the sanatorium.

What kind of diary did Pauline receive?

[jp] Pauline received a "Whitcombe's New Zealand Handy Diary," both times, for Christmas.

Who gave Pauline her diary?

[jp] Her father, Herbert Rieper, judging by his comments as Pauline unwrapped her Christmas present. This is true and particularly ironic, since Herbert Rieper gave permission for the police to search for, read and confiscate Pauline's diaries in real life.

How and where did Pauline write in her diary?

[jp] Pauline is shown writing in her diary in the evenings. This is accurate. Sometimes she was in her bed, sometimes she was lying on her bed, sometimes she was seated at her desk. She wrote in ink, using a pen.

Another remarkable example of attention to detail: We actually see Pauline writing a few entries onto the pages of her diary, and Jackson has Melanie Lynskey mimic quite precisely the real Pauline's style of writing and her format of writing on the page.

Pauline's lettering and annotation of the final diary entry is an almost exact reproduction of the actual diary page, which was photographed and entered into evidence at the trial. See 7.4 for more information about the real diaries.

What was Juliet's story at the Riepers' table?

[jp] Juliet was relating the story she and Pauline were writing, to be sent to New York for eventual publication:

"So, in a blazing fury, Charles runs Lancelot Trelawney through with his sword, leaving Deborah free to accept Charles' proposal of marriage."

This is a reasonable facsimile of surviving fragments of the girls' fiction (see 7.4.1).

Bert suggested he be signed up for an advance copy.

What was the story the girls told at Port Levy?

[jp] "Charles clutches his wounded shoulder as he gallops into the courtyard. Deborah awaits his return in their private boudoir at the very top of the tower. He smells her scent from fifty paces and urges his steed onward. He flings open the door and launches himself at the bed, ravishing her!"

Judging from surviving fragments of the girls' fiction, section 7.4.1, I may not have used quite enough exclamation marks in punctuating that quote...

What was Juliet's story read out in Mrs Stevens' class?

[jp] "The Empress Deborah has the most enormous difficulty fending off her husband, who tries to have his way with her morning, noon and night!"

"However, the Queen's biggest problem is her renegade child, Diello, who has proven to be an uncontrollable little blighter who slaughters his nannies whenever the fancy takes him!"

Who wrote letters in "Heavenly Creatures."

[jp] Pauline wrote letters (as Charles) to Juliet (as Deborah) during Juliet's four-month confinement in the TB sanatorium in 1953. Pauline also wrote letters, as herself, to Juliet at the same time. "Heavenly Creatures" paints this correspondence as being the result of Pauline's "brainwave" arising from her despair at Juliet's falling ill and their being separated.

Juliet wrote letters (as Deborah) to Pauline (as Charles) during her stay at the sanatorium, and she wrote letters as herself to Pauline. Pauline noted that Juliet "has entered into the spirit of the thing greatly." I love that line, for some reason. Both great lines come directly from Pauline's real diaries.

Juliet's parents wrote to Juliet from abroad while Juliet was confined in the sanatorium. Juliet left those letters unopened "for a rainy day," she told Honora during a visit.

In reality, the girls' letter writing was apparently much more extensive and protracted than shown in the film. The girls' letters were also important pieces of evidence used against them in court.

And, in real life, Anne Perry has placed enormous weight and importance on this correspondence from Pauline during Juliet's confinement in the sanatorium. Ms Perry has frequently called it "a lifeline" in her recent interviews, stressing that this correspondence with Pauline was her only contact with the outside world during a "very sad and lonely time." Jackson and Walsh could not have known of Ms Perry's perspective on this when they wrote the screenplay, of course. It is a bit of a pity that we don't get a greater emphasis on this written communication in "Heavenly Creatures," though what we do get is delightful.

What do we hear of this "sanatorium" correspondence?


My Dear Charles,
     I miss you and adore you in equal amounts and long for the day that we will be reunited. But as I languish in this house of disease and decrepitude, my mind turns with increasing frequency to the problem of our son.
     Although only ten, Diello has thus far killed fifty-seven people, and shows no desire to stop. It worries me, Charles...

                                             31 Gloucester Street
                                             7 June, 1953 
My Dearest, Darling Deborah,
     Affairs of state continue to occupy my time. I have to report that the lower classes are terrifically dull.
     Only yesterday, I was compelled to execute seven peasants just to alleviate the boredom. Diello insisted in coming along. In fact, he made such a fuss that I had to let him wield the axe himself. Heads did roll... Not just the prisoners, but the Royal Guard, my Valet, and several unfortunate onlookers copped it as well. (splotch!)

Oh Charles,
     I am despairing enough to put Diello in the hands of the Cardinal, in the hope that a good dose of Religion will set the young chap on the right path!... ("Helllooooo...")

What is the significance of Pauline's poetry?

[jp] Pauline's poem "The Ones That I Worship," read in part in voiceover, is an extremely important clue to Pauline's attitudes and, possibly, contains clues about her motivation for committing the murder. It also contains several important clues concerning her relationship with Juliet and the Hulmes.

For example, the first verse refers to herself and Juliet as being sisters or, more precisely, as being the dutiful daughters of Henry Hulme. Hence, it also conveys Pauline's reverence for Dr Hulme. The poem has a 'religious' tone to it, so it almost reads like a catechism, or a Psalm: a holy celebration and declaration of beliefs. Or an 'exultation' (the term actually used in the trial).

The poem also paints a picture of extreme exclusivity, with the girls being referred to as standing apart from others, better than others, in many different ways, and it says that there are aspects to them which can't even be understood by others. This is a pretty common theme in adolescent writing, but it is quite intense in Pauline's poem.

Initially, the identities of the girls as heavenly creatures (Goddesses, no less) are separate from the identities of the real-world daughters amongst whom they move. However, the reference frame of the poem goes back and forth between a spiritual plane and a real-world plane. Eventually the two sets of beings merge in the final verses: the heavenly beings are flesh and bone and exist in both worlds. Again, this is almost a straight variation on religious themes which would have been extremely familiar to Pauline from liturgy--phrases like 'the Son of God come down to earth from Heaven,' and 'the Word made Flesh.' There is convincing evidence that the real Pauline Parker maintained an interest in the Methodist Church throughout her childhood, attending quite faithfully with Wendy even though her parents did not. Both girls also attended social functions through their Church, and went on special holidays because of their affiliation with the Church.

Pauline also clearly stated in "The Ones That I Worship" the strange commingling of love, reverence and violent hatred she felt, though when she wrote 'men' she was probably writing in the vernacular of the time, and meant 'human beings of both sexes' (though it was not interpreted that way during the trial). The final verses are beautiful and are quite chilling in the context of the film:

"Hatred burning bright in the brown eyes, with enemies for fuel,
Icy scorn glitters in the grey eyes, contemptuous and cruel.
Why are men such fools they will not realize
The wisdom that is hidden behind those strange eyes?
And these wonderful people are you and I."

The themes outlined above turn out to mirror the themes of "Heavenly Creatures" revealed in the sections below. It appears as if the filmmakers used the themes in "The Ones that I Worship" as their guides when they prepared the screenplay.

However, there are two important caveats concerning this poem. First, it should be noted that Pauline's poetry was psychoanalyzed to death during the real-life trial and in the academic literature, and the whole process was ridiculed savagely and with devastating effect by the Prosecution. Second, Pauline herself stated in interviews after the murder that too much was being read into the poem and, in particular, she didn't think of Juliet and herself as being sisters at all. She said the opening lines were used just for the sake of aesthetics. Take that how you will. Extensive discussions of Pauline's writings can be found in Medlicott's article 7.8.1 and in Glamuzina & Laurie 7.7.6.

What was the plot of Pauline's opera?

[jp] On the morning of the murder, Pauline and Juliet retire to Pauline's room where Pauline prepares the murder weapon as she tells Juliet about her opera. It is a wonderful and chilling scene, done with a counterpoint conversation between the girls. Pauline said:

"It's a three-act story with a tragic end."
"I thought for hours about whether Carmelita should accept Bernard's marriage proposal."
"But in the end, I decided against it. I thought it would spoil all their fun."

Pauline's dialogue is an almost direct quotation of a fragment of the real Pauline's fiction. See 7.4.1.

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