"A beautifully crafted story about the supernatural."
You know a film’s a classic when you can watch it some 20 years on and it’s just as wonderful as the first time around. Growing up wondering if I would be transported into another dimension whenever my parents gave into my nagging and took us for our own picnic to Hanging Rock, I have always been intrigued by Joan Lindsay’s chilling book and Peter Weir’s (The Truman Show, Witness) cinematic interpretation.Don’t get me wrong, this is not a horror film in the cliched Hollywood style. This is a beautifully crafted story about the supernatural, sexual repression and society’s response to an incomprehensible act, and set amongst the stiffness of a Victorian-era boarding school for refined young ladies in rural Australia.
Peter Weir’s Director's Cut is seven minutes shorter than the original version and is scripted by Cliff Green (Against the Wind, Power Without Glory) from Joan Lindsay’s novel. The story centres about the disappearance of three boarding school students and a school teacher during an excursion to Hanging Rock, in Victoria, on Valentine's Day, 1900. Incorrectly regarded as being based on a true story, the richly textured movie follows those that disappeared and those that stayed behind, and spends more time asking questions then answering them.
Cinematographer Russell Boyd (Gallipoli, Crocodile Dundee I & II) uses the most of Victoria’s Macedon Ranges country to combine both the beauty and the creepiness of the situation. South Australia’s Martindale Hall is the location for the school under the direction of Rachel Robert’s Mrs Arthur Appleyard. Boyd won a BAFTA for his work on this film, whilst Judith Dorsman (Costumes), and Greg Bell and Don Connolly (Sound) were also nominated.
The filming is languidly sensuous and haunting thanks to David Copping’s (Puberty Blues, Breaker Morant) art direction, Max Lemon’s editing, Gheorghe Zamfir’s stunning pan flute playing and Australian film legend’s Bruce Smeaton’s original score.The performances are all wonderful, from the gothic complexity of Rachel Roberts to the ethereal qualities of Anne Lambert and Karen Robson as the two main girls, Miranda and Irma. Helen Morse (as Mademoiselle de Poitiers), Jacki Weaver (as the housemaid Minnie) and a much younger (and just as spunky) John Jarratt (as the coachman Albert) are also superb. But don’t expect any narrative satisfaction – the open-ended storyline is intentional. Eerie and surreal at times, “Picnic” is a must-see. (Natasha Wood--filmnet.org.au)