(Dir. by Peter Jackson) (1994)
This scintillating schoolgirl fantasy, which deteriorates and descends to murder, is based on the true case of Pauline Yvonne Parker (aka Yvonne Rieper; aka Lancelot Trelawny, Cornish soldier of fortune) and her friend, Juliet Hulme (aka Emperor of Borovia), who bludgeoned Pauline’s mother to death (the weapon being half a brick wrapped in a stocking) whilst on a picnic in the hills above Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1954.
The story is as sad and weird as you can get, and Jackson tells it brilliantly as an obsessive, pubescent dream: the girls whiz about in a world of make-belief: the adults are caricatures, humourously mundane and slow-witted in their prosaic every-day landscape. Pauline and Juliet visit Borovia, a mud town where various heroes from Hollywood (“This” and “That” but not “It”), and their own fevered novels, are enlivened to render them fealty, affection and assistance. There are also ventures into the Fourth World, where all is heavenly, but even better.
Meanwhile, both sets of parents momentarily disengage from their own matrimonial squalor to perceive something of an intense, unwholesome quality about the girls’ relationship (and indeed, there are moments that smack – pardon the unfortunate choice of phrase – of Bilitis).
Having defied and evaded the comical authorities of school, the sticky lodgers at Pauline’s home, and the sweaty, inhibited psychiatrist she is taken to consult, finally, the parental hammer comes down. The girls are to be separated, and Juliet packed-off to an aunt in South Africa for the health of her diseased lungs.
This brutal rift is the catalyst for the appalling “moider.” This is where the line is fatally crossed; where fantasy becomes encarnadined, and real life turns so bleak that the viewer gasps. The conclusion is awful and inevitable, and moves us because of the splendour of Jackson’s art, as well as well-nigh perfect performances from Kate Winslet (as Juliet / Charles II of Borovia) and Melanie Lynskey (Pauline / Lancelot).
The girls were both convicted of murder (Pauline’s diary contained full details of their premeditated, empty and insane act) but released a few years later on parole, a condition of which was that they never meet again. The enforceability of such a condition is pretty moot; but one hopes that if they are re-acquainted, it is in a happier place.