Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) – Peter Weir

Mired in legend, and psuedo-history (there were and are many discussion about whether or not this event actually happened), Peter Weir’s adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s haunting novel of historical fiction is the next film recommendation from DK Canada’s The Movie Book.

Set in the 1900s the tale is set at the Appleyard Girls’ School in Australia. A day’s trip is planned to the nearby Hanging Rock (an actual location) and before they are to return home that evening, three students and one teacher will vanish without a trace, with only one to ever be seen again.

There’s a poetic, lyrical feel to most of Weir’s work, but arguably none more so than this one, the film exudes a dreamlike quality that makes it all the more haunting.

The disappearance of the the girls and the teacher has an immediate effect on the school, and the nearby town. leaving them all troubled and anxious over the fate of the missing girls.

The film has to walk a fine line and allow the viewer to draw their own conclusions on what they think happen, though through the course of the movie, a few options are presented as viable solutions, but the mystery, by film’s end, remains just that, a mystery.

PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (1975)

And as the film unravels, it’s more about how the community is affected by the disappearance as opposed to resolving it, though that is attempted as well. More importantly, I don’t think we, as the audience, want to know what happened, we want to puzzle it out ourselves, to find a truth that serves us and there are choices to be made.

A visually stunning piece of work, only Weir’s third feature film, the film’s early images are accompanied by Zamfir’s pan flute, but after the disappearance we are relegated to a lonely score by Bruce Smeaton.

There are little actions and bits of dialogue spoken by the Miranda character, played by Anne-Louise Lambert, that seem to suggest that she knew something was going to happen. They way she waves goodbye to a teacher, the things she says to her roommate, Sara (Margaret Nelson) who is deeply troubled by the loss, perhaps because of the depths of her feelings hinted at in the dialogue. These and other small character bits that seem to imply that she knew something…

In the end, we are left with our own thoughts and reflections as the final moments of the Appleyard Girls’ School play out…

I’ve not read the original novel, nor seen the modern television adaption, but I walked away from this having supremely enjoyed it, and wondered at the fate of those poor girls…

Find this classic, and others tonight when you pick up a copy of DK Books’ The Movie Book, and discover a slice of cinema you hadn’t tried before.

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