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Sunday, April 04, 2004

Heavenly Creatures

I finally watched this movie, which got here from Netflix last week. I have been busy, in no small part from watching other movies. I thought it was really good. It certainly was quite imaginative, and the fantasy the girls create together grows organically over the course of the story, sweeping the viewer into it.
If you don't know what the movie is about, it's a true crime movie of sorts chronicling events that led two teenage girls in 1950's New Zealand to attack one of their mothers and bash her head in with a rock while taking a walk. The movie wisely doesn't try to explain fully why these girls commit this crime. It shows their reasons, sure, but there it will always be a mystery why some people cross this line and others don't.
The movie avoids demonizing these girls. They are as human as anyone else, and it's very easy to sympathize with their impossible plight. Their lives are incredibly stressful, and they are in love with each other in a time when lesbianism was too horrible to even pronounce. The apparent homosexuality of the girls is handled marvelously. It would be too easy for a lazy director to fall back on the stereotype of the evil lesbian killer. Jackson's direction makes the girls' love for each other the most normal thing in their lives, and the world around them is crazy. The parents condemn the relationship for the wrong reasons; fixated on their "unhealthy" sexuality, the parents seem to miss that the real problem is that these girls have grown dangerously co-dependent because they have no other support system in the rest of the lives.
Jackson's handling of the elaborate fantasy lives of adolescents is awesome. The special effects draw the viewer into agreeing that these girls' other world is fantastic indeed, if disconcertingly violent. The embarassing nature of teenage romanticism isn't soft-pedaled at all; all the vanity of their emerging femininity and anxiety about male sexuality is there to make any of us who were imaginative teenage girls once squirm. Thankfully, he dodges another stereotype about lesbianism resulting from a fear of men. The girls handle boys fine, but they just prefer each other.
This movie made me think about Monster, which I haven't seen yet. But it seems to have similar structures and themes, particularly the theme of how human killers really are. I wonder if it's just easier to make female murderers seem more human or if it's just a coincedence. Probably a little of both.
These two girls were found guilty of murder but released in their early 20's on the condition that they never see each other again. Apparently, the writer Anne Perry is one of the murderers, the accomplice. Alot of people wonder if murderers are just born that way or if they are the product of a certain set of circumstances in a certain place in time. Anne Perry is evidence that the latter may be true, at least some of the time.


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