Tuesday, 2 May 2017

"Picnic at Hanging Rock" review

Peter Weir’s Australian film “Picnic at Hanging Rock” which was filmed in 1975 is based on a novel by Joan Lindsay "Picnic at Hanging Rock" (1967).
Picnic at Hanging Rock” tells us a story about the group of young girl students of the private school, where these girls learn the generally accepted rules of good form, moral, so to be a worthy representative of modern English culture.
 This private school is a closed space where girls have to grow up. They awaken their sexual desires:  girls dream, read romantic poems, fall in love with each other and deify each other. These honest girls tighten each other in corsets. It is the day of their picnic at the Hanging Rock, Valentine's Day.
When three girls are alone, in relative distance from civilisation - at the top of the Hanging Rock, they obey an unknown call and, like somnambulists, pull off their stockings, drop their shoes and disappear. Old maid, mathematics teacher, Miss Greta McCraw follows them, also succumbed to the call.
There are no main characters in this picture and there is no conclusion to this story, there is a riddle in it, but there is no answer to this riddle. The rules, on which the film is based on, violate many other rules. Nevertheless, “Picnic at Hanging Rock” is extremely charming. For a long time it was considered that the picture was based entirely on real facts and events and now the real Hanging Rock became a place of pilgrimage for tourists. The viewer is hypnotized and confused with serious, like from a police report, message in the introductory credits, thinking that there might be a chance that this was based on a true story, and perhaps we see an authentic reconstruction of the incident, that  remained a mystery to law enforcement officers and residents of the 19th century. The author of the book, Joan Lindsay, said herself that “Whether (the book) is Fact or Fiction, my readers must decide for themselves. As the fateful picnic took place in the year nineteen hundred, and all the characters that appear in this book are long since dead, it hardly seems to matter”( Rowena Gilbert). However, soon 3 years after Lindsay’s death the last Chapter of this mysterious story is released upon authors wishes. The events that have occurred at the Hanging Rock in the film still remain a mystery.
In agreement with Megan Abbot (2014) point of view  “By not providing a “solution,” the film leaves us face-to-face with our own self-­generated projections, our shameful fantasies. Any dark, unseemly, or erotic scenario we imagine in our heads, we must acknowledge as our own. The movie, the story, Miranda herself won’t take it back. It is ours, and we must claim it.

The film has a lovingly reproduced, refined, enchanting picnic atmosphere with divine creatures in snow-white beautiful dresses. Miranda, one of the missing girls, is even compared to the angel of Sandro Botticelli – Venus from “The Birth of Venus”.
However, the atmosphere at the hanging rock is quite different. Low angle camera shots show us the superiority of these massive and ominous rocks over characters and viewers.(see fig.1) This proves us that “Picnic at Hanging Rock” shows us a struggle between a man and an unknowable nature.

Figure 1. Low angle shot of Hanging Rock(2015)

It is worth noting that in “Picnic at Hanging Rock” there are a lot of flowers. Students’ rooms are filled with vases with bouquets. There is a scene where Miranda is washing her face in a washing basin, full with water and flowers. But there are also a lot of artificial flowers – painted of various postcards and caskets (jewellery boxes). There are also dead flowers: a close-up shot of a girl pressing a flower to make a herbarium(see fig.3) Girls themselves represent flowers in this picture which will soon unfold.

Figure 2. Miranda washing her face in a washing basin with flowers(2014)

Figure 3. Girl is making herbarium on a postcard(2014)

The girls and their romanticised French teacher are dressed exclusively in frail, pristine white and are ritualistically preparing themselves not just for a day but for womanhood.”( Graeme Turner,2001:252)

This poetic and very romantic film has its own style and charm, it shows the audience not only a fashionable society of the 19th century but also tells about the mysterious disappearance of girls at hanging rock.

1. Gilbert, R. WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT HANGING ROCK? is the story true? At: http://www.castleofspirits.com/picnicathangingrock.html (Accessed on 02 May 2017) 
2. Abbot, M. (2014) Picnic at Hanging Rock: What We See and What We Seem. At: https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/3202-picnic-at-hanging-rock-what-we-see-and-what-we-seem (Accessed on 02 May 2017) 
3. Turner, G. (2001) The Film Cultures Reader. London and New York: Routledge. 

1. Figure 1. (2015)[Film Still] http://media-studies-thriller.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/hitchcocks-film-theories-in-rope.html, accessed on 02 May 2017.
2. Figure 2.(2014)[Film Still] https://filminteriors.wordpress.com/tag/picnic-at-hanging-rock-film/, accessed on 02 May 2017.
3. Figure 3.(2014)[Film Still] https://filminteriors.wordpress.com/tag/picnic-at-hanging-rock-film/, accessed on 02 May 2017.


  1. "This private school is a closed space where girls have to grow up. They awaken their sexual desires: girls dream, read romantic poems, fall in love with each other and deify each other" - lovely writing here, Anastasija! :)