It has happened. Modern cinema has produced a film better than “Pulp Fiction.” A week ago I would have called that impossible, nothing could beat Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece. S But now one of the greatest, if not the greatest, films ever made is playing only at the Magic Lantern, and it is better than “Pulp Fiction.”
The film is “Heavenly Creatures,” a movie so packed with love and anger that seeing it is a harrowing and moving experience. I’ve seen it twice in two days; even the second time it was so powerful that none of the intensity was lost.
“Heavenly Creatures” is the true story about what happened in 1952-54 in Christchurch, New Zealand, to Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker. It’s based on Pauline’s diary and tells the story of how Pauline and Juliet came to murder one of their mothers.
Pauline is a shy and unhappy girl; her life takes a turn when she meets imaginative Juliet. Juliet has a happygo-lucky attitude and uncommon zest for life. Through their sudden friendship, Pauline discovers deep down she is much the same. Together, they have what is best described as the best time of their lives.
Pauline and Juliet are anything but cardboard stereotypical teens. They don’t do each other’s hair or buy clothes. Instead, they write novels about imaginary medieval kingdoms inhabited by a colorful royal family and build clay figurines of their characters. In each other, they find a sanctuary for their imaginations and are even able to journey into the kingdoms in their minds.
But what makes their friendship unacceptable to the era is that Pauline and Juliet fall in love.
Ultimately, this happiness can’t last and their parents are their undoing. Many of our parents probably resemble either Pauline’s or Juliet’s. The Hulmes put on a facade of love and caring, but do not actually seem to care about Juliet. And the Parkers are loving and use their power to do what they honestly think is best for Juliet, but instead make her miserable.
The happiness is soon replaced with anguish and despair. This drives Pauline and Juliet to commit premeditated matricide.
More than anything, the reason “Heavenly Creatures” is unforgettable is the superb acting of the two stars. Kate Winslet (Juliet) and Melanie Lynskey (Pauline) are able to bring more feeling to the screen than any performances I’ve ever seen. They flawlessly cover the wide spectrum of emotions their characters go through. And there has never been any better representations of pain and grief than the last scenes of “Heavenly Creatures.”
Director and writer Peter Jackson’s last film was the manically funny “Dead Alive.” It’s a hardcore blood-and-guts horror movie also set in New Zealand in the 1950s. He made a horror movie laced with black comedy and intestines, and has now applied his talents to a bigger and better movie. Jackson’s direction here is a perfect blend of fact, storytelling and art.
The artistic elements of “Heavenly Creatures” come when the girls give life to their stories and during the metaphor-heavy climax.
Surprisingly, the movie is centered around neither the murder or homosexuality, but merely the pure love and happiness the girls bring to each other’s lives and the sorrow it causes.
All of the love, hatred, joy and pain of “Heavenly Creatures” condenses at the end and explodes in a few minutes that are very hard to watch, but mesmerizing nonetheless. Every magnificent element comes together beautifully to make one of the most powerful films ever. A true masterpiece.
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