Three students and a school teacher disappear on an excursion to Hanging Rock, in Victoria, on Valentine's Day, 1900. Widely (and incorrectly) regarded as being based on a true story, the movie follows those that disappeared, and those that stayed behind, but it delights in the asking of questions, not the answering of them.
This film was Australias first international success and is often referred to as the best Aus movie ever made. It is also one of my personal favourites!
Rachel Roberts ... Mrs. Appleyard
Vivean Gray ... Miss McCraw
Helen Morse ... Mlle. de Poitiers
Kirsty Child ... Miss Lumley
Tony Llewellyn-Jones ... Tom (as Anthony Llewellyn-Jones)
Jacki Weaver ... Minnie
Frank Gunnell ... Mr. Whitehead
Anne-Louise Lambert ... Miranda (as Anne Lambert)
Karen Robson ... Irma
Jane Vallis ... Marion
Christine Schuler ... Edith
Margaret Nelson ... Sara
Director: Peter Weir
Codecs: XVid / MP3
This is mesmerizing film with a cipher at its center. Less is more. I am amused at some of the comments. There seem to be two types: those which depict the movie as "beautiful, ethereal and subtle" and those which depict the film as "too symbolic, too slow, boring, too 70's."
The point is, there is no point. The central vision of the film is enigma, the void, mystery. This seems to make a lot of explainers uncomfortable, but the use of emptiness at the core of a work of art is nothing new. "The hand that erases writes the true thing" Faulkner's masterpiece "The Sound and the Fury" is about a character who is absent. The characters that surround her, and who actually people the novel? Not all there, lacking, disintegrating, unknown, unwanted, unloved.
If there must be a meaning, it is that nothingness is the biggest threat of all. "I will show you fear in a handful of dust" We fear our disappearance. We'd like to believe that our little lives, our little comments, our little film lists will endure forever. But they won't. Nothing will.
what is existence? a random ever-changing collection of energized particles.
At any point, we can cross the line into nothingness. Nature will subsume us.
The film "A Passage to India" had the same theme. It was NOT essentially a movie about rape or sex scandal. It was about the yawning pitch-black eternal emptiness of the caves. It drove two women mad. Nature as an amoral uncaring unmoveable eternal reality.
Just as Picnic was NOT about repressed Victorian sexuality. These were pretexts, and were utilized because the fear of sex is the fear of letting go. The fear of sexuality leads irrestibly to our main fear: that darkness, emptiness, and the powers of nature will overwhelm us and erase us.
In Picnic, there was no villain, no enemy, no fall guy, no perpetrator, process or predicament that we could blame for the girls' disappearance. They simply disappeared. And that is the scariest nightmare of all.
This film is magnificent! From the storyline, the settings, the atmosphere, the cinematography, the Victorian repression, the music throughout, the sense of the ordinary, the epic and the bizarre all clashing together to make something altogether superb from such disparate parts.
Whether it is supernatural, otherworldly, plain disappearances, a murder scene, or who-knows, no one ever really finds out. And what might seem important, might not be, and what might seem trivial might not be either! It is the imagination made reality on film, and the most dreamy and atmospheric film I have seen.
The fact that it is in Australia as well, at the turn of the century counts for a lot. The story in the movie could be read in countless ways; as symbolic of the horrors and hypocrisy of Victorian society; as a criticism of European ideals imposed on an alien landscape; as the end of one society, that of Victorian, to the beginnings of the modern world we all now live in. It is this that is the crux for me; the appearance of something new from something so old; the old landscape, the passing values of Victorian society, the passing values of class deference in English-speaking societies, and obviously Australia.
There is another thing that gets me about this movie; the down to earthness of Australians up against the bizarre and epic nature of an ancient landscape that refuses to be tamed.
There is for me a sadness in this film, and repression of every kind, but, somewhere, in tiny glints throughout the movie, the future is glimpsed when ordinary people can be free of such repression, and somewhere the story of Oz itself is in this movie. I don't know how or why, but it is! I think! Whatever, I love this movie and can't get it out of my head.
* The cast and crew traveled to Adelaide and arrived co-incidentally on February 14th - St. Valentine's Day, the day on which the action starts in both the book and film in the year 1900.
* The role of Mrs. Appleyard was originally taken by Vivien Merchant. While traveling to Australia, Merchant became ill in Hong Kong, and Rachel Roberts took over the role at a few days notice.
* Despite many reports to the contrary, this movie is not based on a true story.
* Anne-Louise Lambert was originally passed over the role of Miranda in favor of another actress. But a week later, a call from director Peter Weir said that "the other girl was too big" and the part was given to Lambert.
* Jenny Lovell took on the role of Blanche with some objections from her mother, producer Patricia Lovell, who worried that it would appear as if Jenny had gotten the part in the film because of her mother's connections.
* Ingrid Mason was originally cast in the role of Miranda, however Peter Weir decided that she didn't have the worldly quality that the part required. That is why he re-approached Anne Louise Lambert, who accepted. The film's producer, Patricia Lovell managed to convince Mason to take the minor role of Rosamund.
* Hamish, the school dog from Marbury School, Stirling, South Australia, Australia, had a "bit" part in the film
* Twelve of the schoolgirls were played by South Australians. Director Peter Weir wanted girls who were less influenced by the modern world to play the turn-of-the-century schoolgirls, and he found most of them from the more provincial Australian state of South Australia
* In casting the pupils of Appleyard College, director Peter Weir ended up searching for unknown girls from outside the cities, looking for the right "innocent faces" to fit the film. However, that meant that apart from Anne-Louise Lambert, none of the other girls had any acting experience, and their amateur performances meant Weir had to cut out much of the dialog.
* Not much acting was required in the scenes with Mrs. Appleyard and her students, as their real-life relationship was rather tense. Rachel Roberts, who played Mrs. Appleyard, preferred acting to a piece of tape on the wall, instead of having the girl to be standing there.