Saturday 2 May 2015

Picnic at Hanging Rock [1975]

Picnic at Hanging Rock, Peter Weir’s seminal adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s acclaimed novel that helped usher in the Australian New Wave, was a lush, haunting, dream-like, quietly disquieting and exquisitely atmospheric work replete with socio-cultural observations on colonialism, rigid class divide, sexual awakening, repression and gender dogmas. Making deft and subtle use of surrealism, perspectives and mise-en-scène, Weir chronicled a possibly fictitious story in the form of a fact about the unexplained disappearance of three young girls and its aftermath, and in the process provided a fine illustration of the interpretative nature of truth akin to proponents of New Journalism. While the students of a private boarding school at the turn of the 20th century are on an educative picnic at the eponymous geological formation in Victoria, three adolescent girls including the ethereal blonde Miranda (Anne-Louise Lambert) and the striking brunette Irma (Karen Robson) – and then their middle-aged mathematics teacher, go missing while exploring the mountains. The incident doesn’t just create panic, it ends up having devastating repercussions on a diverse set of individuals – the upright, alcoholic headmistress (Rachel Roberts), the orphaned Sara (Margaret Nelson) in love with Miranda, an introverted aristocrat (Dominic Guard) who becomes obsessed with Miranda, and an alluring, empathetic teacher (Helen Morse), among others; the situation is further exacerbated when Irma is mysteriously deciphered few days later, “intact” yet shorn of her corset and visibly older than before. The resplendently shot mood piece, filled with mesmeric visuals and slo-mos, along with the melancholic organ-based score and leisurely pacing, created a rich, eerie atmosphere where dreams and reality mixed into a complex and confounding whole.

Director: Peter Weir
Genre: Drama/Period Drama/Mystery
Language: English
Country: Australia


Chris said...

I love that the mystery is still ambiguous all these years later. Maybe the best Australian film of all-time, at least in my opinion. I agree with most of what you say.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Chris. The film's ambiguity made it all the more haunting & unsettling. Haven't seen that many Aussie films, but yes, I reckon this is sure to rank among the best from that country.