Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) Film Review A-

Picnic at Hanging Rock

One of Peter Weir’s best, this 1975 Australian film still stands up today.

The plot involves the disappearance of several teenage schoolgirls and their teacher during a picnic at Hanging Rock, Victoria, on Valentine’s Day in 1900 and the subsequent effect on the local community.

Spearheading the then-emerging Australian New Wave Cinema, which also included such notable directors as Bruce Beresford and Fred Schepisi, It boasted bravura direction from Weir, who showed, like Hitchcock, that horror can be visited upon us on the brightest and most beautiful of summer days. It suggested that it was the young charge’s blossoming sexuality, in concert with some ancient force within those rocks, that led to the girl’s transportation into some other realm.

Picnic at Hanging Rock

With Rachel Roberts as the unfortunate schoolmistress.

The striking cinematography is by Russell Boyd, and the score is by Bruce Smeaton. Also, skillful use of sound – Weir incorporates the sound waves of earthquakes into the mix.

Boyd’s camera operator on the set was John Seale, who would eventually supplant his master and become Weir’s cinematographer on three movies (“Witness,” “The Mosquito Coast” and “Dead Poet’s Society”) and Anthony Minghella’s cinematographer, winning an Oscar for “The English Patient.”

Weir and Boyd would eventually get back together in the new millennium for two more movies, one of which, Master and Commander of the World,” would win Boyd his own Oscar.

The film was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland in 1977 and not until 1979 in the United States.


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