Hit Me With Your Best Shot. Each week we assign a movie. Participants are asked to select its best shot and post it to their own webspace by Wednesday evening. Everyone is welcome to join in. Next week's topic is Beauty & The Beast (1991) and there had better be a big crowd. Who doesn't love that movie?
Today we're gazing at...
HEAVENLY CREATURES (1994)
With last year's mania for the dehumanizing Kick-Ass, this Spring's death-skilled Hanna and the internet's current casting obsessions with Hunger Games, in which a young girl Katniss (to be played by Jennifer Lawrence) becomes a killer to stay alive in a future that loves murder games, you'd think just about every other violent act in the world nowadays was committed by teenage girls. This type of violence can still shock onscreen -- and I hope it always will -- but it almost never arrives with both bludgeon force and emotional acuity the way it does in Peter Jackson's hysteric and hysterically imaginative Heavenly Creatures.
The problem that Heavenly Creatures poses with a "best shot" blogging experiment is not that it doesn't have these images, but that the images are rarely static and eager to be captured with your typical screen capturing devices. Only full on film clips would suffice. Peter Jackson loves the motion in his motion pictures and Juliet ("Introducing... Kate Winslet") and Pauline ("And Introducing... Melanie Lynskey") are about the most spastic female characters of the past couple of decades outside of maybe Molly Shannon's "Superstar!" They're constantly flinging themselves about. (read the full post.)
They spin. They dance. They run. They scream. They fling themselves lustily at movie posters with the stars they've elevated to sainthood (Mario Lanza, James Mason, Leslie Howard, and most amusingly Orson Welles). Aside from the iconic and eerily calm shot of Juliet and Paul holding hands after they've made a deadly pact for the morbid named "happy event", all of the film's best images arrive in flurries of movement and high pitched screaming like that post-murder run through the brush (the opening scene above) or a little later in the film and earlier in the story, a boisterous striptease through the woods.
The heightened girlified emotions in this long sequence which starts at a movie theater just keeps escalating until there's nothing left for it to do but collapse into peals of laughter, culminating in the film's best shot. At the end of their squealing striptease they laugh and kiss and the camera zooms out and up a branch flipping across the screen as if covering a showgirl with a sudden flush of feathers or yanking theatrical curtains closed on the showstopper at the end of Act One. Peter Jackson has struggled with tone on occassion -- The Frighteners and King Kong veer off course from time to time and The Lovely Bones is a chaotic mess of "what exactly are you going for with this?" but Heavenly Creatures, which I'd call his best film, is a master class in nailing a difficult tone with precision. The movie is at once exhilarating and dangerous feeling -- making you complacent with the girl's über passionate connection but also wary of it. And it's also morbidly funny while also being respectful of the true story's actual victim; please note that the film's only purely naturalistic performance, and a great one, is from Sarah Peirce as Honora Reiper.
So this time through the story I found the following sequence of shots incongruously sad. The scoring and sounds (the usual girlish squealing) are pushing happiness out at you but there's something so emblematic about the physical action.
Juliette, the more headstrong and confident creature, is leading the charge just as she does in the pair's fantasy visions of The Fourth World that will eventually consume their every thought. She runs with abandon towards the water when suddenly she panics and grabs hold of the pier for dear life.
But Juliette has already set the stubborn charging Pauline in motion. This newly spirited introvert charges forward taking the leap without hesitation letting the moment completely swallow her up. Just as she will in the couple's final fateful irreversible moments.
[FWIW: Heavenly Creatures is a member of Nathaniel's Personal Canon]
more such heavenly creatures
- Victim of the Time Kate Winslet and "It".
- Pussy Goes Grrr enters the Fourth World and sees a disturbing closeup.
- LS2GH brown eyes, grey eyes.
- Okinawa Assault the Kurosawa shot, the radical Fourth World and more...
- Film Actually doesn't recognize Gina and Deborrah's genius. Uh-oh.
- Against the Hype 'the hills are alive...'
- Movies Kick Ass "the missing man"
- Encore Entertainment on the perversity of forcing the imaginary into reality