Visual Text Essay

Here is another example of a Level One Visual Text essay for you to have a look at. What do you think?

Describe a situation or event in the text that shocked or surprised you. Explain how visual and/or verbal features were used to make you feel shocked or surprised.

A shocking event in the film ‘Heavenly Creatures’ directed by Peter Jackson was the murder of Honora Rieper by her daughter Pauline and friend Juliet Hulme. Jackson used sound, point of view camera shots and flash forward to make the viewer feel shocked and horrified by the murder.

The use of sound is perhaps better described as the absence of sound. The murder scene is eerily quiet. Jackson chooses not to use overly dramatic musical accompaniment, or particularly loud sound effects as one would usually expect in the climactic scene of a film. All that the viewer hears is the sound of the brick smashing into Honora’s skull, and the girls yelling and screaming as they beat her. Jackson wants us to hear the scene as Pauline and Juliet would have. When they were murdering Honora, there wasn’t an orchestra in the background. Jackson makes this event so shocking by letting us hear it as it would have been heard. The murder becomes not some dramatic moment in a story, but a real event that occurred in the foothills of Christchurch. It is so shocking because it becomes real.

The murder is shown to us in a series of point of view camera shots, to shock us by showing the murder from all three characters perspectives. We see close up shots of the bloody faces of Pauline and Juliet, of Honora lying on the ground, and of the brick being flung. Not only do we experience the murder through the ears of those present, but Jackson shocks us by showing us the murder through their eyes too. By seeing things from each character’s perspective, Jackson helps us to understand some of what the characters must have been feeling. How awful it must have been for Honora to watch her daughter, covered in blood, flinging a brick at her own mothers head. It is shocking to us that the girls could continue with the murder when we see, through the point of view shots, how horrendous it must have been. We cannot understand how they could commit such an awful crime.

Jackson uses the convention of flash-forward to further shock us at the brutal murder of Honora. At the beginning of the film, we see Juliet and Pauline running up a hill, covered in blood. Pauline cries ‘It’s Mummy! She’s terribly hurt!’ The viewer realises that something awful has happened to ‘Mummy’, and as the film progresses, we discover the plans of Pauline to ‘moider’ her mother. But it is still hard to believe that she will actually carry out her plan. Jackson uses flash-forward to show us that Pauline does in fact murder her mother. Somehow, knowing all along what the outcome will be makes the murder even more shocking. Jackson wants us to be horrified that Pauline and Juliet have the courage to go through with the murder.

Jackson makes the murder of Honora Rieper even more shocking through the use of sound, point of view shots and flash-forward. He shows us the murder through the eyes and ears of the characters, helping us to experience it in a real and shocking way. And we are shocked that the horror that we knew must be coming does actually occur; that Pauline and Juliet have enough hate for Honora to go through with her murder.


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