4.8 The narrative gap in the murder scenes

What is the narrative gap in the murder scenes?

[jp] The murder scene is presented in two pieces in the film. The immediate aftermath of the murder is shown at the film's opening. The murder itself is depicted at the film's close. Comparing the scenes in the film with the detailed forensic evidence of the case, it becomes apparent that there is a time gap between the two scenes.

What is the evidence for the narrative gap?

[jp] Very simply and graphically put, Honora Mary Parker exhibited forty-five separate wounds to her head, neck, face and hands. The murder scene in the film showed a very small fraction of those wounds being inflicted. Hence, the audience was not subjected to a graphic, real-time depiction of most of the violence inflicted against Honora. What we saw in the film, horrible as it may have been was, indeed, just the beginning of Honora's murder.

What did Jackson leave out?

[jp,jb,mk] The evidence supplied by Honora's wounds implies that she did not die quickly, or meekly, or painlessly. The autopsy dryly referred to wounds on her fingers, interpreted as having been obtained when she tried to defend herself. Audrey Amos, a policewoman who saw Honora's body, said her fingers were practically severed by blows from the murder weapon--a brick, remember. It was speculated that Honora was conscious and she may have fought back, or at least may have tried to avoid her daughter's blows, for some time. Jackson's 'hommage' to these facts are Honora's terrible cries during the murder scene and the brief shot of her crouching on the ground with blood trickling down her face, her arm half-raised.

Twenty-four of the wounds on Honora's face and head were consistent with their having been caused by extreme-force, crushing blows from the murder weapon, i.e. the brick. Under cross examination, the pathologist stated that some blows may have cause more than one wound. In "Heavenly Creatures" we only see 7 blows being struck, 4 from Pauline and 3 from Juliet. Even taking into account the multiple-wound-per-blow idea (simple physics would probably make more than 3 wounds per blow very improbable), this is still a serious undercount of the number of serious wounds. Since there were minor wounds, too, the implication was that there were many more blows, some glancing.

Try counting to twenty-four, slowly. If there were that many blows to Honora, it would create a different impression of the murder than does the few blows shown in the film. The pathologist testified that it would have taken only a few of the major head injuries to render the victim unconsciousness. This tends to make the murder appear to be a situation of gross 'overkill', but the situation may not be simple to interpret. This may be one reason why Jackson did not show all the facts.

Glamuzina and Laurie tend to de-emphasize the violence of the murder in their analysis (actually, they refer to it as 'the killing' throughout their book) and they argue that repetetive 'overkill' is more common in juvenile homicides and does not necessarily imply the same thing as it would in an adult homicide. They cite studies which show children having unrealistic ideas about what is required to produce death, and also that children often express deep fears that the adult, who has been omnipotent to that point, will get up again and seek revenge for having been injured.

Finally, even though the real murder was extraordinarily, shockingly violent (and seen to be those things at the time--one reason for the continuing emotional reaction the murder produces in those who remember it) it may not have been brutal. Brutality speaks more to the state of mind of the murderers, and that remains unknown.

So the overall effect of the narrative gap is...?

[jp] ...a severe toning down of the violence of the murder. We are left with a vastly more sympathetic portrait of the girls from the film's murder than we would have obtained had the whole murder been recreated graphically, in real time. Or, had we been present at the murder as witnesses.

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