Picnic at Hanging Rock: Rachel Roberts, Dominic Guard, Helen Morse, Peter Weir (director) a jpoc movie review

A chillingly beautiful mystery

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My Rating

Nine out of ten.

I first saw this film in the early eighties at the North Staffs Poly film theatre. Now, I have it on video. It's amusing and a little irritating that the true story myth is actually reported on the box!

My review

On St.Valentine's day, 1900, a party of girls from a private school set out for a picnic at Hanging Rock in the Macedon Ranges in Australia. While they are on the rock, something mysterious and disturbing happens and, when the party returns to the school, they have left three girls and one teacher behind. All missing on the rock.

Rather than follow the normal mystery rules of working towards an answer, the film concentrates on the effect of the disappearances on those connected either directly or by circumstance. What will happen to the school after such an event? How will the other girls react? What of the young Englishman who was the last person to see them alive. He is both under suspicion and obsessed with the fate of the missing girls.

This sense that the events just cannot be explained is bolstered by one of the most memorable and haunting soundtracks of any film ever made. The director really has an eye and an ear for setting a mood of something beautiful and precious which has been lost and will never be regained. The images of the outback are stunning. They convey the feel of a landscape that is both threatening and spiritual.

There is no final scene in which a master detective reveals all. Instead, the viewer must come to terms with the fact that the film provides no answer to the question than it poses.

Perhaps this is why the film has aquired a reputation for being based on a true story. We are used to unresolved mysteries in real life but not in fiction. Despite the rumours of a real event which was mysteriously unreported, this is a work of fiction. The film was based on a novel of the same name by Joan Lindsay and, in its first published form, the novel also did not reveal the answer. The author's manuscript did contain a final chapter that explained all but this was removed by the publishers because they felt that the novel was stronger without it. They were right and their decision led to the creation of a poignant classic.

This film really is one that you should see and its beauty means that you will want to watch it many times over.