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Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

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During a rural picnic, a few students and a teacher from an Australian girls' school vanish without a trace. Their absence frustrates and haunts the people left behind.

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Writers:

(novel), (screenplay)
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Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 3 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Mrs. Appleyard
Vivean Gray ...
Miss McCraw
Helen Morse ...
Mlle. de Poitiers
Kirsty Child ...
Miss Lumley
Tony Llewellyn-Jones ...
Tom (as Anthony Llewellyn-Jones)
...
Minnie
Frank Gunnell ...
Mr. Whitehead
Anne-Louise Lambert ...
Miranda (as Anne Lambert)
...
Irma
...
Marion
Christine Schuler ...
Margaret Nelson ...
Sara
Ingrid Mason ...
Rosamund
...
Blanche
Janet Murray ...
Juliana
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Storyline

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 <davidc@atom.ansto.gov.au>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

rock | student | school | girl | teacher | See All (267) »

Taglines:

On St. Valentine's Day in 1900 a party of schoolgirls set out to picnic at Hanging Rock. ...Some were never to return. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Mystery

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

2 February 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El enigma en las Rocas Colgantes  »

Box Office

Budget:

AUD 440,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$27,492 (USA) (26 June 1998)

Gross:

$84,744 (USA) (3 July 1998)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (1998 director's cut)

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to a park ranger at Hanging Rock, over the years since the film's making nearly all of the cast have returned to visit The Rock at one point or another. See more »

Goofs

14 February 1900 was a Wednesday, not a Saturday. While this seems to be a factual error, it is one of the subtle hints that this is a fictional story. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Miranda: What we see and what we seem are but a dream, a dream within a dream.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Virgin Suicides (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

String Quartet in No 1 in D Major, 2nd Movement
by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

If you're up for a free-form dramatization of the word 'unease'...
14 September 2001 | by (Auckland, New Zealand) – See all my reviews



I remember reading (God knows where) someone's shaggy-dog story about this film. Apparently, this individual had a friend (as people who tell these kind of stories tend to) who went to see 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' sometime in the mid 1970s. He was late, there was the inevitable confusion, and he consequently spent the next two hours whimpering in fear - waiting for the chainsaw-wielding assassin to appear and rip into a bunch of immaculately attired Edwardian schoolgirls.

This is probably as good an analogy as any for the sense of dread this film (fitfully) manages to accumulate. Watching it is like seeing weather systems build. Small increments appear, converge on other increments, circling each other ambiguously before merging into a grey, baleful mass that sits there on the horizon, making atmospheric noises. In 'Picnic...' the wind moves plangently through eucalypts, clocks tick, an orphan girl is the victim of snobbish behaviour, girls gossip, more clocks tick, the wind moves through more eucalypts, the clocks stop, something 'unspeakably eerie' happens, and that's pretty much it.

Ultimately, the film is about Peter Weir placing markers of European culture

  • corsets, watches, a locally built replica of an Eighteenth century


English manor - in the vast, contoured, deeply ambivalent Australian hinterland, and letting his camera record the absurdity of those spatial relationships. His early twentieth century Australians anxiously encircle themselves with the accoutrements of civilization they've brought with them - its dress codes, its class politics, its architectural styles - as if shielding their bodies from the unfamiliar landscape outside. Yet their attempts to maintain a European identity by 'keeping up appearances' come off as merely obsessional.

The elaborate dresses the girls wear, the formalities observed at the picnic (and at a surreal dinner party set on a flat, sunblasted lake edge - a Seurat painting gone horribly wrong), far from being emblems that mark a cultural continuity unifying Australia with Europe, seem oddly fetishistic - deeply arbitrary. Weir's characters seem to sense this meaninglessness also; they're enervated, without conviction. They seem to realize that, in bearing items of European material culture within this new environment, they're merely in possession of a bunch of dead letters - signifiers rendered powerless (decontextualized) by distance. As more than one character remarks, 'it all looks different here'.

To add to the unease, Weir intercuts all this with shots of the landscape - huge, forested, confrontationally empty. There's a sense of something staring back, unimpressed, 'personified' by the oddly biomorphic shapes within Hanging Rock itself.

One can still feel the reverberations, twenty five years on. There are definite echoes of 'Picnic...' in 'The Piano', 'The Virgin Suicides', and the whole slew of films that erstwhile Antipodean Sam Neill rather dodgily categorises the 'Cinema of Unease'. If you really want to freak yourself out, try watching this and 'The Quiet Earth' in the same sitting. You may never feel absolute faith in your ties to the physical universe again.


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Mrs. Appleyard jctennant55-892-30458
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