Beginning this Friday, The American Cinematheque is screening a mini-festival of dark coming-of-age stories — including Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures.
Entertainment Weekly writer Anthony Breznican is curating the film fest, and Jackson’s 1994 tale of friendship gone bad screens at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica this Friday. Star Melanie Lynskey will join a guest.
Breznican says he chose the film because Jackson created an haunting tale of friendship that simultaneously saves and then destroys two young girls.
While this is a true story, it’s an extreme one — but we can all relate to those friends we had who brought out both our strong side and our bad side. The kind of friend your mother doesn’t like you hanging out with. Doesn’t that make you want to see that friend even more?
Heavenly Creatures is remarkable for how much ground it covers. It has dark humor, deep love, tragedy, resistance, defiance, and gritty realism — but it also ventures off into the realm of fantasy and imagination. This movie was made long before Jackson ventured into the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, but it illustrates the power that fantasy can provide when we are feeling weak or lost.
I remember being stunned by the clay kingdom of the Fourth World, where Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey’s characters make their escape. To me, storytelling and fantasy are such potent forces because in a life where we often feel helpless or unseen, our imaginations can help us rediscover what heroism and courage really mean. Sometimes those stories — be it Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, the Marvel universe, or Star Wars — help us find those qualities in ourselves.
Other times, there’s the danger that escapism might take us too far. We can become closed off and lose ourselves in other worlds, then find ourselves crushed by the disappointments of reality. That’s what happens in Heavenly Creatures, and it is mesmerizing, terrifying, and stunning to behold.