3.1.6 The Riepers' home - 31 Gloucester St. - - -
** Where was the Riepers' home located?
The Riepers lived at 31 Gloucester St in downtown Christchurch. Their garden
overlooked the grounds of Christchurch Girls' High School over the rear fence. One block
to the south was Canterbury University college.
** Who lived in the Riepers' home?
In the extended Rieper family, there was Nana Parker, Bert, Honora, Wendy and
Pauline. That's five family members. Although it wasn't clear from the film, 'Nana' Parker
did not live at the Riepers' home in real life, though she was a frequent visitor and
overnight guest. This would explain why she was present in the Christmas scenes and at
some meals, but not in some other scenes. In addition, there were boarders. It appeared
that up to four could be accommodated at any time, which would bring the total number of
people living in the Rieper home to eight or nine.
** What was the layout of the Riepers' house?
We see that the house had at least two floors. Walking in the front door there was
a telephone on the wall to the right, a staircase leading up on the left, and a narrow
hall in front leading to the small, combined sitting room/dining room. Beyond that was the
kitchen and a back door. Upstairs there were the boarders' bedrooms in the front of the
house, a bathroom in the middle near the head of the stairs and family bedrooms in the
rear, over the sitting room and kitchen. Honora said "The rooms are small, but
they're comfortable." We also know that there was a small bedroom with its own
entrance built onto the back of the house.
** What were the living arrangements at the
Living arrangements were very crowded when we first see the interior of the
Riepers' home. The boarders probably shared their small bedrooms, two to a room. Bert and
Honora would have shared a room in back. Which probably only left one small room at the
back, for Wendy. The house was so crowded that Pauline had her own small, separate room
built onto the back, probably built by Bert. This is an important detail, because it shows
that Pauline may have actually been given special treatment in the years before those
shown in the film because of her academic talents.
** How did John-the-boarder change the living
After John was caught in Pauline's room, Pauline was moved into the house. Later we
see that her new room was upstairs, and was not shared; she had apparently switched rooms
with Wendy. Pauline's parents wanted her inside the house, across the hall from them, so
they could keep an eye on her. This was very close quarters for such a tense situation.
Pauline's house became a pressure cooker.
** How did having boarders affect day-to-day
The first thing I noticed about the Riepers' home was all the signs and regulations
posted on the walls. On the notice board by the telephone, by the bathroom, by the kitchen
door, in the kitchen. Every 'public' space in the house was regulated. It was difficult
for Pauline to find a place to call her own in that house. Tripping over 'strangers'
everywhere she turned meant that she would have been unable to really relax or just be
herself in her own home. It would have been necessary to continually mind her P's and Q's
and for her to put on her public face. The responsibility of running the boarding house
would have been shared and it looked as if Pauline came up on the short end of that stick.
We don't see Wendy doing housework or dishes; in fact we see her being waited upon by
Pauline at one point. Granted, Wendy was working and bringing in a paycheck, but her hours
at work wouldn't have been all that different from Pauline's hours at school. Glamuzina
and Laurie provide an interesting perspective on these close living quarters and how
Pauline's home environment would have been very different from most of her classmates.
They quote one contemporary (pp. 39-40) who "described the house as 'ghastly ... it
didn't look like a home to me ... no decent rows [arguments] to clear the air because
there would always be other people around.'"
** What do we learn of the Riepers' cultural
The set dressing in the Riepers' home was brilliant and it communicated an enormous
amount of information about the Riepers' station in life and about the extent of their
cultural awareness (or not) and sophistication (or not). The set decoration at the
Riepers' was one of my favourite 'details' in "Heavenly Creatures." First, look
at the wallpaper--busy, dark and hideous and fashionable, perhaps, when the home was last
decorated, maybe thirty or more years prior. The whole home was overdecorated with sad,
small, cheap, kitsch treasures. At least the 'paintings' weren't on velvet, but they were
cheap reproductions in cheap frames. The next time you see "Heavenly Creatures"
look around in the Riepers' home to get a good picture of Pauline's chagrin and,
eventually, what she came to hold in sneering contempt.
** Where was the bird kept?
Another nice little touch by Jackson: the bird cage on the kitchen table. Bert was
a bird fancier, in real life, and his caged bird figures prominently as a dramatic device
in "Daughters of Heaven" (see 6.1).
** Were there any other pets in the Rieper home?
Wendy gets a little pug dog for Christmas 1953.
** Did the Riepers have a car?
Jackson shows the Rieper family once in a car: Pauline is picked up at Ilam and
driven home by Bert and Honora two days before the murder. The outside shots of 31
Gloucester St showed a modest car parked in front of the house. "Heavenly
Creatures" has Honora and Pauline using public transportation most of the time. They
take a tram to visit Juliet and we also see the girls riding a tram. The trip to Victoria
Park is made on the bus. In real life the Riepers had a car, according to Herbert Riper's
testimony. However, he may have been the only driver, and he may not have driven the car
to work. It is known from her diary entries that Pauline took the bus or rode her bike
everywhere she travelled in Christchurch, when she wasn't being chauffeured by the Hulmes
(also mentioned in Pauline's diaries). Honora and the girls definitely took the bus to
Victoria Park on the day of the murder. Bert Rieper was driven by a coworker to Victoria
Park after work on the day of the murder.