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A Dream Within a Dream: The making of 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' (2004)

A Feature Length Documentary On The Making Of The Film Featuring Exclusive Interviews With Peter Weir, Hal & Jim Mcelroy, Patricia Lovell and much more


Mark Hartley


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Credited cast:
Russell Boyd ... Himself
Cliff Green Cliff Green ... Himself
John Jarratt ... Himself
Anne-Louise Lambert ... Herself
Joan Lindsay Joan Lindsay ... Herself (archive footage)
Patricia Lovell Patricia Lovell ... Herself
Hal McElroy Hal McElroy ... Himself
Jim McElroy Jim McElroy ... Himself
Helen Morse ... Herself
José Luis Pérez José Luis Pérez ... Himself
Christine Schuler ... Herself
Martin Sharp Martin Sharp ... Himself
Bruce Smeaton Bruce Smeaton ... Himself
Peter Weir ... Himself


A Feature Length Documentary On The Making Of The Film Featuring Exclusive Interviews With Peter Weir, Hal & Jim Mcelroy, Patricia Lovell, Cliff Green, Russell Boyd, Bruce Smeaton, Jose Perez, Helen Morse, John Jarratt, Christine Schuler And Anne Louise Lambert. This documentary is actually longer than film it documents. The documentary covers all aspects of the films creation from the discovery of the novel, to the directors cut of the film. Written by razorback

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making of | hanging rock | See All (2) »









Release Date:

1 August 2004 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

A Dream Within a Dream See more »

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Did You Know?


This documentary was first featured on the Australian DVD for Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), the edition released in 2004, as well as subsequent Australian DVD editions such as the 2007 Director's Cut, and is also included on the USA Criterion Collection 2015 DVD release. See more »


References Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) See more »

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User Reviews

"Am I a man dreaming I am a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming I am a man?"
24 October 2010 | by robert-temple-1See all my reviews

That quote from the Chinese philosopher Chuang Tze, who had dreamt that he was a butterfly, sums up the dilemma facing everyone who is confronted by the enigmatic PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (1975, see my review of the recent director's cut). This fascinating two hour documentary attempts to decide whether Joan Lindsay's tale and Peter Weir's film of it were dream or reality, but it ends without the mystery being solved. 'A dream within a dream' is a quote from an Edgar Alan Poe story which Martin Sharp suggested to Weir that he insert as a voice over on the soundtrack, and it was one of the film's most effective moments. Everyone who was anyone in connection with this film is interviewed in this documentary with the exception of Rachel Roberts and Jane Vallis, who have both died, and Margaret Nelson, who has left acting and declined to participate. This is a pity, because Nelson's performance as the orphan girl Sara is perhaps the best job of acting in a film full of stunning performances, and apart from the amazing Anne Lambert, both Nelson and her character were the most enigmatic. One surprise in this documentary is that Anne Lambert, despite being 50 at the time, looks 30, and is still so beautiful one's eyeballs fall out. She reveals that she had a hard time of it during the shooting. She was shunned by all the other girls because she was too beautiful, and they all ganged up on her to prevent her speaking to the young actor Dominic Guard on whom one of the other girls had a crush, so Lambert must be kept away from him at all costs. (That's girl gangs for you, for whom a Botticelli angel counts as a black sheep.) Rachel Roberts, a difficult and demanding woman, isolated herself from all the girls and refused to speak to a single one of them off camera. So Anne Lambert was left with no one to talk to for weeks. A pity I didn't know, I would have been on the next plane, and so would ten thousand others, I'm sure. Christine Schuler, who played chunky screaming Edith, seems a sweet person, who cried about Jane Vallis's death and waxed highly sentimental. If only she would eat less. The interviews with Peter Weir, the McElroy brothers and Patricia Lovell (the three producers) are extremely enlightening and make for compelling viewing. Both old TV interviews with Joan Lindsay, the author, are drawn upon. They are shown in full as 'extras' on the new three-disc special edition DVD of PICNIC which contains this documentary along with the director's cut of the main film, and which cannot be recommended highly enough as one of the finest DVD issues of recent years. Helen Morse makes a wonderful impression. She has become not only leaner but rather ascetic looking. She was always a raving beauty, who as someone says here, could have been a major international star if she had not turned down so many parts. Her comments were among the most interesting and perceptive. She said her favourite scene was the picnic at the foot of the Rock. The cinematographer Russell Boyd described how it took a week to shoot that because the light was only right for one hour a day, so they shot for one hour and then climbed back up the Rock to shoot something else, and carried on like that for days. Few producers would have permitted it, but it 'made' the picture, as everyone now agrees. It is in fact the picnic scene that epitomizes the dreamlike trance which fell over everyone in the story, and indeed it persisted to some extent in the making of the film as well. For instance, in that scene, two watches stop dead at noon. But according to some who are interviewed here, several watches really were stopped during the production at Hanging Rock. Strangest of all is the revelation made by Joan Lindsay in an old TV interview also on this disc that she was a watch-stopper. She said she often 'made people's watches stop' all her life just by sitting next to them, and she had no idea what force was at work. So that is pretty weird, and getting rather Uri Geller-ish, which considering how strange the story is, is more or less what one might expect! The mystery of what really happened, how much was real, how much invented, has been an impenetrable puzzle all these years. But a few new clues emerge from this documentary and from Joan Lindsay's interviews which lead me to conclude that what is really behind this is a passionate love which Joan formed for another girl at her boarding school (the Miranda figure, played by Anne Lambert). Anne Lambert here tells the amazing story that on the day Joan Lindsay visited the location during filming, she went up to Anne, passionately embraced her and spoke ecstatically into her ear calling her 'Miranda' and saying at last she could see her again after all this time. She never acknowledged that Anne was Anne! Joan always insisted that part of the story was true and part was invented. Since there is a memorial nearby to three girls who disappeared in 1867, but not at Hanging Rock itself, I believe that Joan transposed the trauma of her great loss of a girl she adored at school into an imagined version of the disappearance of the three girls, and placed it on the mysterious, eerie, and incredible Hanging Rock, which is surely one of the strangest places on earth, and which had haunted Joan Lindsay since she was three years old, when she first saw it. This story is really about young Joan Lindsay's loss of her one great love, another girl.

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