Picnic at Hanging Rock

1975

Action / Drama / Mystery / Romance

44
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 95%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 83%
IMDb Rating 7.5 10 32284

Synopsis


Uploaded By: OTTO
May 10, 2015 at 06:06 AM

Director

Cast

Jacki Weaver as Minnie
John Jarratt as Albert Crundall
Rachel Roberts as Mrs. Appleyard
720p.BLU
809.32 MB
1280*720
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
1 hr 55 min
P/S 5 / 47

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Filmtribute 10 / 10

A beautifully enchanting and haunting film

Although the images have stayed with me since I first saw Picnic at Hanging Rock some 20 years ago, the power to instil a strange sense of loss remains. The revised director's version released in 1998 unusually cuts seven minutes from the original as, according to Pat Lovell (executive producer), Peter Weir wanted to remove any pretty romances and speed up the final act. The sound quality has been enhanced and the look improved through colour regrading, but sadly a couple of key scenes involving Irma (Karen Robson) have been omitted. We are told at the outset that some of those who start out for the St Valentine's Day picnic in 1900 are never to return, and, even though various clues are shared with us, no attempt is made to solve the puzzle. Miranda (Anne Louise Lambert), who provides a voice over, based on a poem by Edgar Allan Poe, sets the tone at the beginning with, `What we see and what we seem are but a dream, a dream within a dream', and the film goes on to concern itself with the aftermath of the disappearance and the impact on all involved with those missing. It explores an apparently idyllic way of life that is not what it first seems, how this false paradise is fragile and how it is shattered by the breakdown of established order. Tensions and hysteria all surface, exposing the suppressed passions that are the reality of life, as well as the claustrophobic atmosphere of the affluent Victorian European life style in an alien land. This theme is further expressed by the virginal white dresses worn for the picnic, which seem out of place in this environment and represent the stifling restrictions placed on the young women. The layers of dress and petticoats the girls have to wear, combined with the various shots into mirrors, as if into another dimension, also reflect the story's many strands.

Russell Boyd's award winning cinematography is stunning and actively encourages you to feel the summer heat. The beauty of the actresses and the sounds of the Australian bush, under the sinisterly foreboding gaze of the Rock, with its blatant phallic symbolism, seduce you so that you will more feel a sense of the horror, as Edith (Christine Schuler) does. The flashback at the end, poignantly coupled with the adagio from Beethoven's piano concerto No. 5 (Emperor), leaves you with a sense of loss of youth and virtue. Peter Weir subsequently recreated this impression in the final scene of his equally outstanding Australian feature `Gallipoli'. I am also reminded of the effect produced by Jane Campion (The Piano) in her early work `Two Friends', where the tale ends in the past when the friendship is at its closest, making the passing of innocence feel more painful with ageing and the passage of time.

Cliff Green's script is not only faithful to Joan Lindsay's narrative but also complements it exceedingly well, although dialogue is often replaced by visual impression and unnecessary details are excluded to maintain the sense of mystery the author intended. However, the novel's literary mistake regarding Felicia Hemanes' famous Victorian recital piece is repeated, which is actually `Casabianca' (about the Battle of the Nile) and not `The Wreck of the Hesperus' by Henry Longfellow. Discrimination is displayed by Mrs Appleyard (Rachel Robert's fantastically monstrous harridan) towards Sara (Margaret Nelson), a forlorn orphan in love with Miranda, who is kept back from the picnic for not learning the poem, whereas Irma's position as heiress obviously carries influence, as clearly on the Rock she can only quote the first line. Sara is shown pity by the housemaid, Minnie (Jacki Weaver), whose own sexuality is realised with the handyman, Tom (Tony Llewellyn-Jones), in stark contrast to the general ambience of repressed desire.

Miranda's sentiment that `Everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and place' is demonstrated by Joan Lindsay who based her fictional account on Hanging Rock, a sacred Aboriginal site, near Mount Macedon in Victoria. To provide added authenticity Peter Weir filmed at the Rock during the same six weeks of summer. Aborigines believe time is not linear and Lady Lindsay eschewed the notion of man-made time, hence the title of her autobiography `Time Without Clocks'. At Hanging Rock both the watches of Ben Hussey (Martin Vaughan) and Greta McCraw (Vivean Gray) stopped at twelve o'clock. Incidentally 14 February 1900 actually fell on a Wednesday, not a Saturday, unless the author used the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian, so that the eleven days were not lost?

The open-ended nature of the fable is deliberate to mirror life where we may learn or uncover some secrets but never understand the mystery. Plenty of extraneous facts and unexplained details are related, such as the absence of scratches to Irma's bare feet, yet identical injuries appear on her head and Michael's (Dominic Guard), her joint rescuer with Albert (John Jarrett), very redolent of the `X Files'.

The film is beautifully shot with haunting music, exceptionally well cast and acted, and tightly directed. The ever excellent Helen Morse is an inspired choice as Mademoiselle Dianne de Poitiers, the French mistress and the girls' confidante, who describes Miranda as a Botticelli angel from the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, and Peter Weir specifically uses the image of the Birth of Venus. In fact Miranda, Irma and Marion (Jane Vallis), the three senior boarders who vanish, are evocative of the Three Graces, who dance in attendance to Venus, in Sandro Botticelli's Primavera. Anne Louise Lambert's portrayal of Miranda (an ironic reincarnation from her famed role in 1973 as the bed-hopping nymphomaniac in the Australian soap `Number 96') captures the vision perfectly with her ethereal loveliness and enigmatic smile, and is reminiscent of the knowing look on the death mask of the renowned `L'Inconnue de la Seine', who coincidentally died around 1900 in Paris.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is a masterpiece of its time, and still rates as one of my favourite films today.

Reviewed by timbeach-03889 7 / 10

An Evocative Feast

This film is certain to yield many varied interpretations, primarily because it doesn't give any answers. A class of girls from a bourgouisse Victorian school take a day trip to Hanging Rock - a large rock formation oddly shaped by volcanic activity in the Australian countryside. At the base of the rock they idle about in the forestry, before a group of four wander off alone, climbing to the peak. Only one comes back, and what's more, one of the staff members, who ran off on her own, also disappears. The search for the missing is taken up by the police, along with two men who were present at the time of the disappearance - one upright English upper class, the other Aussie working class, with their vernacular completely at odds with each other. The girls can not be found, and while the search continues, we spend time learning the backstories of various other characters inside the school - from the headmistress, to the pupils, to the gardeners and the maid. The unsolved disappearance shrouds each male character a suspect, and every single character a great mystery that might reveal an important piece of the puzzle, despite seemingly being caught up in their own unrelated troubles, such as money to pay the school fees and poetry recitals. The first half of the film is youths romantic allure, a teenage girls optimism. The second half is a discovery of the pain residing underneath the perfectly manicured surface, with the journey into the rock a symbolic representation of passing from one to the other - a child to adult. The great anticlimax however, is that the case remains unsolved.

As it is not based on a true story, this irresolution is not an unfortunate by-product of real life events, rather a purposeful artistic decision by the writer, and it becomes clear we were watching not a detective story, but an art film posing as one. The use of the former genre's mystery and intrigue to keep us interested is successful, but by the closing credits feels like a hoodwink, and is all much ado about nothing. The ambiguity is on purpose, the director has suggested as much, but it is also purposefully misleading. The clues we are given to follow the crime - clocks stopping at 12, scratch marks on hands yet not body - are simply red herrings. Not even Sherlock Holmes could unwind it, because there is nothing to unwind. The clues were never intended to lead answers, and instead simply serve as narrative tools to take us from A to B. The journey we make is under false pretences.

If we are to take a figurative rather than literal interpretation of this film, we can find meaning in the symbolism used. Based on a novel, the author Joan Lindsay was an artist before she was a writer, and from the framing of shots to the constant symbolism, this film is reminisce of an old oil painting in motion. The three girls who are lost to the rock are seen removing their shoes and stockings moments before their disappearance, while the missing teacher was last seen in her underwear - shoeless. Meanwhile, the only girl to come back from the rock did not remove her shoes or stockings. In artwork, the removal of shoes was commonly symbolic for sexuality - the undressing - which is as sure a sign as any that their disappearance is metaphoric for the loss of virginity. The somewhat phallic looking rock becomes the representation of man, and set on Valentines Day, the film depicts the dangers women face when wandering into this wild new territory, and leaving their protected innocence behind. For the older staff member, who had previously described volcanic eruption as though male ejaculation, it may represent a lifetime of repressed sexuality, as others have commented.

One might point to other themes represented here, as proposed in this review section, and a story that leaves its meaning up to abstract figurative interpretation is bound to do just that. It could be all or none of those things, and symbolism does not necessarily mean profundity. Perhaps moreso than any other film I've watched, this one becomes whatever the audience makes of it, so its no wonder there is such a wide variety of reactions!

Where it unreservedly succeeds however is in the emotional matters. It is beautiful to look at, from the casting to the costumes, and the juxtaposition of those characters and costumes against the bright Australian bushland. The old masterwork paintings are some of the most terrific images created, and not enough films share their influence. It also sounds terrific, with the constant and varied bird chatter, to the foreboding ticking of clocks, classical music, and a haunting otherworldly pan flute. The camera movement is at times languid, ebbing and flowing between characters and their surroundings, soaking up the atmosphere. The net result is a dreamy impressionism, albeit with an ever present creepiness under the surface. It is the epitome of the 70's. All hazy images, dreamy vibes, mythic, nature based philosophy, that was just as likely (or more) to have stemmed from the herb than the library. It is a very complex and indirect way for one to express themselves.

If Picnic at Hanging Rock proves anything, it is the power of mystery. It may frustrate the heck out of our rational minds, yet leaves an enchanting impression. Finding it better to watch than to think about afterwards, to me it is a picnic that tastes wonderful, but does not fill the stomach.

Reviewed by avik-basu1889 9 / 10

A mystery with surrealism and allegory !!!

'Picnic at Hanging Rock' starts with the line "What we see and what we seem is but a dream. A dream within a dream". That line says and expresses everything about the tone, feel and general vibe that Peter Weir sets for the film. Weir leaves no stone unturned to make sure that the film plays out on an elevated dreamlike realm. We get a lot of cross cutting, super-imposed visuals, slowed down movements, etc. complemented by beautiful moody scores involving pan pipes.

Personally I found three ways to attempt to make some sort of a thematic reading for this film:

1. The film can be interpreted as a work that explores the abstract concept of fantasy/curiosity itself. The girls of the college are shown to be fascinated by the mysterious Hanging Rock. It gives them a chance to experience something beyond the boundaries of their normal, routine and mundane life in the college. The Hanging Rock represents an otherworldly aura of wonder to these young curious girls. The film(like the novel it is based on) then reverses this when the three girls along with Miss McCraw go missing. Now what happened to these girls at the rock becomes the center of fascination, fantasy and curiosity that overwhelms the other characters which lends a meta-quality to the film's narrative because it is that same sense of curiosity and fascination that grabs the viewer during the entire second half of the film. After Irma is rescued, there is a scene in the film where she bids farewell to her friends(she is crucially dressed in striking red unlike the other girls who are dressed in their normal whites). Instead of the scene progressing into a sweet farewell get-together, we get an explosive encounter where the other girls start screaming and hounding Irma for the answer to their questions about what happened that day at the Rock. This scene is a clear and deliberate representation of the frustration of the viewers for not getting an answer to these questions.

2. The film can be seen as an exploration of sexual awakening as well as repression. There is a shot at the very beginning of the film where 4 girls of the Appleyard College are standing in a line diagonally to the frame as they each tighten the corset of the one standing in front. This particular shot beautifully and subtly juggles two elements at the same time - on one hand it presents a picture of tender feminine beauty and sisterhood, but on the other hand with the tightening corsets it shows the severe restrictions that they are subjected to. Their fascination for the Hanging Rock can be easily thematic equated with a burgeoning sexual curiosity with the Rock itself representing a male aura and the eventual disappearance of the girls being somewhat of a sexual awakening. In the initial scenes of the film, there is a bit of an attachment that gets hinted at between two of the girls of the college namely Miranda and Sara. Miranda open asks Sara to learn to love someone else as she is going away. The 'going away' can be interpreted literally, it can be interpreted as a foreshadow of what's to come, or it can easily interpreted as Miranda claiming that she won't remain the same girl after encountering the Rock. She will become someone more aware, more conscious and more mature. There are recurring shots of a swan that come after the disappearance of the girls and the swan is made to look like it represents Miranda or at least her spirit. Thematically this could be interpreted as Weir telling us that Miranda is still present in the midst of all the others, it's just that she is unrecognisable in her new state. There's also a lot of possible euphemisms in Miss McCraw's description of the Rock. Weir deliberately juxtaposes the tenderness, the sweetness of the girls with the rough, abrasive, intimidating presence of the Hanging Rock. What's even more telling is that the 3 girls before venturing into the infamous crevice, take off their stocks, their stockings and later when Irma gets rescued, we learn that the corset was missing too alongwith the knowledge that Edith imparts about Miss McCraw's state when she made her way up to the rock. It certainly feels like an act signifying sexual liberation.

3. The third way to interpret the story will be to read it on a much broader scale and see it as a narrative that shows the conflict between imperialist order and indigenous Australian roots. Mrs.Appleyard is a very strict and overbearing headmaster who does her best to make sure that every little thing of her school remains orderly and every student remains obedient to an almost slavish extent. There are subtle shots of the photos of Queen Victoria in her office underlining the imperialist roots of this institution. But the 3 girls and Miss McCraw escape Appleyard's brutish order and become one with nature. In terms of music too the film uses European Classical tunes and juxtaposes them with the very exotic sounding central score of the pan pipes.

Having written all that, the magic of the film which I am smitten by isn't down to the themes and the possible allegories, it is actually down to Peter Weir's hypnotic, storytelling style. He makes sure that the entire film feels like a dream that plays out on a plane of elevated reality. The acting is great from everyone, especially Anne Lambert and Rachel Roberts. Russell Boyd's cinematography is exceptional. The outdoor scenes are vibrant and aesthetically appealing .

I don't think, 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' is for everyone, but if you like dreamy, languidly paced mood pieces, then this one might be for you.

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