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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. Written by
David Carroll <email@example.com>
Peter Weir is a master of taking the mysteries of human nature, combining them with the essence of humanity, then distilling those aspects through the inexplicable itself. This has been an earmark of his films "Dead Poets Society," "Fearless" and even "The Truman Show" but nowhere is this more apparent than with "Picnic At Hanging Rock."
Beautifully filmed in rural Australia, the plot of "Picnic At Hanging Rock" is deceptively simple: students at an upper crust Victorian-era girls' school go on a field trip to Hanging Rock --an unusual geographic site miles away from civilization. On the trip, three of the girls and one of the teachers go missing. A simple plot, right? Well, on the surface it is indeed simple, but the way Peter Weir deals with the subject matter will keep the viewer absolutely enthralled and at a loss as to the cause of the girls' inexplicable disappearance. What has frustrated many viewers is that the responsibility of the hypothesis lies solely on them: there are no conclusive answers, but rather a number of theories as seen through the eyes of second and third parties.
Additionally, Weir spices up the overall feeling of uncertainty with repeated images seemingly unrelated to the flow of the movie. Swans, ants, flowers, flies and poetry all appear repeatedly throughout the film, indicating that there is some deeper significance to the nature of the disappearance. Something that is just out of the viewer's grasp. In truth, Weir's direction in this film is akin to a more accessible and humanistic David Lynch. Much of the same thematic ground is covered, and the pronounced sense of uncertainty is a trademark of many Lynch films, especially his recent masterwork, "Mulholland Drive."
Finally, what makes "Picnic At Hanging Rock" a true marvel of filmmaking is the complete integration of all elements in the support of the ephemeral theme. The pan-flute of Zamfir adds an otherworldly element to the score; the cinematography makes Hanging Rock look alternately commonplace, and enigmatic, depending on the scene. This collusion of all elements makes "Picnic At Hanging Rock" essential viewing for anyone interested in immaculate emotive filmmaking. -E. Shaun Russell
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