February 15, 2013

Post-Valentine-Outstandingness: PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK

PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK

German Title:
Picknick am Valentinstag

Australia, 1975
Director: Peter Weir

10,5/10








Australian director Peter Weird... whoops, I meant Peter Weir's second full-legth feature "Picnic At Hanging Rock" is the outstanding adaptation of Joan Lindsay's novel of the same name, and tells the mysterious story about the disappearance of several schoolgirls and their teacher during a picnic at the foot of Hanging Rock on Valentine's Day in 1900.


IMHO "Picnic At Hanging Rock" is one of the greatest, most impressive and most confusing movies ever made. Don't get me wrong: "confusing" in a Lynchian way. Though it's not something like "Lost Highway" where I can accept the fact that I have absolutely no idea what is going on - "Picnic At Hanging Rock" is more like "The White Ribbon" or "The Virgin Suicides". It's a movie you got to... no, you HAVE to watch over and over and over because you badly want to find out what is going on. There's obviously no resolution to the mystery, but still you try hard to get to the bottom, pay attention to every single detail, analyse significant scenes, try to connect the dots...


The movie's mystery plagues me now for about 20 years (I've seen it countless times), although the movie isn't exactly about that particular mystery. There's much, much more to it. Repressed sexuality, burgeoning lesbianism, first love, young rebellion, homoeroticism,
but also the tension between Australia and the British Empire back then, the divide between rich and poor, being an outsider, loneliness, malevolence, frustration etc. etc.
Hell, there's even some supernatural mysticism in it!

"Picnic" has got one of the most beautiful soundtracks I've ever heard, consisting of Gheorghe Zamfir's magic panflute music, haunting piano melodies, ethereal strings and a gloomy, threatening, droning bass. The odd-looking Hanging Rock with its creepy stone-faces, as well as the stunning forested landscapes are all beautifully captured by Russell Boyd's ("Master & Commander") magnificent cinematography.


The acting is pitch-perfect and nearly every single characters is entirely fascianting: Anne-Louise Lambert as the lovely but strange Miranda who seems to know more than she reveals, Rachel Roberts as the frustrated old Mrs. Applegate, Dominic Guard as young Englishman Michael who becomes obsessed with the disappeared girls, or Margaret Nelson as poor orphan Sara.

Of course, the movie isn't a horror film, but there are several scenes that are more haunting than everything else, especially the whole sequence when the girls climb the rock, including the breathtaking moment where the girls go into the rock, the sky turns red and the chubby girl runs away, screaming. A scene so well-edited, so well-filmed, it's amazing.


If you are into Arthouse and stuff, and if you love mysteries without solutions, then this is your movie. A must-see masterpiece, and one of the greatest Australian movies ever made!

Wiki ~ Imdb

10 comments:

  1. Sounds really interesting, wouldn't mind checking this out. I'm familar with Weir but never heard of this before.

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    1. Really? I always thought that it is well-known in America too.
      You have to check it out, Daniel. It's amazing!

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  2. I saw this on cable a zillion years ago where it was presented to be a horror film. That is not.what my young self got as you point out. I need to see this again as my taste for arthouse weird has grown since then.

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    1. Presented as horror film? Lol that's hilarious! Girls disappear, maybe killed? Valentine's Day? yeah, let's tell people that it's a horror film :D

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  3. Wonderful review, Maynard! I haven't seen 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' in a long time, but you've definitely made me want to see it again! :) In fact, I might go out and buy the DVD today. I know that it's probably not too well known outside Australia, but here, it's regarded as a classic and has cultural significance.

    I've read the infamous final chapter that was removed from the original novel before publication and which supposedly contains the solution to the mystery, but even that is vague and open to interpretation. The unanswered mystery is frustrating, but it's also probably part of the reason the movie continues to haunt you after you've watched it.

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    1. Thank you, Emma. I tried to put my heart into it.
      Woot, seems like my review boosts the DVD sales in Australia :D

      As I said to Daniel, I always though that this is a quite well-known movie in most parts of the world. Seems as if it's not...

      Haven't read the book, but I read about the final chapter on Wiki. Yeah, not really satisfying. I guess it's better that way.

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  4. I will most certainly have to check this out. I love movies I have to watch over and over to piece together sometimes.

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    1. This is a definitely a must-see, though I'm not sure if you like it as much as I do.

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  5. Nice one, Maynard! Picnic at Hanging Rock really took me by surprise. I didn't expect to like it half as much as I did. Instead of being pretentious nonsense, it was intriguing from start to finish. The ambiguous elements really work for, rather than against it.

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    1. It COULD have been pretentious nonsense, but thankfully, it was directed by Weir, one of the very few directors who constantly put put quality work. Weir never disappoints :)

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