Iconic, Cult and Classic Movies
One of the best Australian films ever, Picnic at Hanging Rock is loved by Australians and appreciated by movie-lovers all over the world. A mystery film, this is one of the top movies of all time.
What happened at Hanging Rock? Unlike other mystery movies, film’s puzzles are not explained giving birth to a great number of interpretations by viewers.
This is the first Australian film to be hugely successful abroad. It became iconic and is on every critic’s list of classic movies.
Cliff Green, based on a novel by Joan Lindsay
Best Cinematography awards BAFTA (1976) and Saturn Awards (1979)
Unlike other best mystery movies, the film gives the whole premise away within the first 5 seconds:
What happened at Hanging Rock? The film explores the effect this question had on psyche of everyone involved in the mystery.
When Picnic at Hanging Rock was initially released, American audiences did not embrace it. A film with no ending?! Who came up with that?! Until movie’s re-release in 1998 with a director’s cut, it was difficult to get a hold of a copy of one of the best Australian films of all time.
With this movie Australian film industry finally challenged Hollywood. The total budget of the film at $500,000 USD was not small, but definitely smaller than the budgets of some of the best Hollywood movies that came out in 1975 - Jaws with the budget of $9 million, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest - $3 million and Dog Day Afternoon - $1.8 million.
The film started Australian New Wave movement and effectively put an end to what Australians lovingly call “ocker film” genre – films about a boorish Australian male and his adventures in “civilization”. The genre was later successfully revived with “Crocodile” Dundee (1986), another entry on the list of best Australian films.
Picnic at Hanging Rock is mostly images and sounds and very little dialogue. Peter Weir explains that he became a visual filmmaker in the early days of Australian film business for two reasons. Firstly, there were no good dialogue writers. And secondly, actors were either too polished or too inexperienced making the dialogue sound fake either way.
Cinematographer Russell Boyd helped create one of the top movies of all time with his simple but innovative use of camera: the ephemeral effect of the picnic scene was achieved by putting a bridal veil over the camera lens.
Cult movie’s sensuality has been commented on extensively: repressed sexuality, sleeping libidos and so on. But Peter Weir explains that sexuality is as much part of this movie as it is part of life.
“In the film, what interested me were other areas: sounds, smells, the way hair fell on shoulders, images - just pictures.”
However, you can’t help but feel like a voyeur spying on young girls lacing up their corsets, removing their gloves and stockings.
Viewers are used to a mystery film in the likes of Sherlock Holmes or Miss Marple, with clear ending and a revelation of an evil culprit. We are almost offended by lack of culmination in Picnic at Hanging Rock. How dare they keep us hanging?
To add to frustration, there is no lead. There is no one character that one of the best Australian films of all time revolves around, except for mysterious Hanging Rock… How unsettling and intriguing...
During the filming of Picnic at Hanging Rock, one of the best mystery movies, Peter Weir was able to get the desirable lighting for the picnic scene only one hour a day when the sun was in the right spot. So the crew took one week to shoot the picnic scene – one hour a day at a time.
The first line of this great mystery film is by the greatest mystery writer of all, Edgar Allan Poe, slightly modified: "What we see or what we seem is but a dream - a dream within a dream." The original version from his poem reads: “All that we see or seem/ Is but a dream within a dream.”
The author of the book on which one of the best mystery movies was based was ambiguous about the fact whether the events really took place. No evidence was found to support the facts. However, there is evidence that girls from nearby schools sometimes went for picnic to Hanging Rock. There is a memorial dedicated to 3 girls that died in 1867 nearby, but not on the Rock.
The author of the book also reported she had an ability to unconsciously stop watches around her, hence the element of the watches that stopped at 12 noon in Picnic at Hanging Rock. This ability is not unusual and is thought to be related to the person’s electro-magnetic field.
Alfred Hitchcock found the star of his mystery film, the Birds, in a commercial for Sego, a diet drink. Peter Weir found Anne-Louise Lambert, enigmatic Miranda of one of the best mystery movies of all time, in a commercial for Fanta.
In the movie, students were dressed in a Victorian fashion, including corsets. Anne-Louise Lambert, who played the enigmatic free-spirited Miranda, did not wear a corset under her dress for her to feel free like her character.
In the movie, Miranda is compared to a Botticelli angel. The image shown in the film is that of Botticelli's Venus. When casting school girls, the director wanted them to have Raphaelite quality.
Fragment of the Birth of Venus (1486) by Botticelli
Movie still of Australian actress Anne-Louise Lambert as Miranda
Hanging Rock is a volcanic formation that is 6 million years old. It is scientifically called mamelon (Latin for nipple). It takes 45 minutes to climb it.
The film is shown after twilight at Hanging Rock each Valentine's day.
Alexander McQueen created a collection in 2004 inspired by the film.
Peter Weir, director of the Australian mystery film: “I usually find endings disappointing: they're totally unnatural. You are creating life on the screen, and life doesn't have endings.”
Peter Weir: “I loved Sherlock Holmes as a kid, but I remember being disappointed when he'd come up with these simple explanations for these complex mysteries. I always was fascinated by the mystery itself, as opposed to the answer behind it.”
One of the top movies of all time owes its cult status to this question: “What happened?” Books have been written on the subject. The most popular explanations were – the girls and their teacher were murdered by a psycho killer, abducted by extraterrestrials or turned into lizards.
Peter Weir, director of some of the top movies of all time has his opinion: “I went across a number of theories… it's conceivable that they could've fallen into one of these caves. The other interesting thing is the notion of time itself. Sort of a Bermuda Triangle type of thing involving another dimension...”
The story goes that the original draft on which the mystery film was based included a final chapter. It was removed prior to publication. In the 1975 interview, prior to the release of the movie the author stated: “It was written as a mystery and it shall remain a mystery.” However, she apparently instructed that the last Chapter be released three years after her death.
In 1986, the last chapter of the novel that gave basis for the mystery film was published. It was revealed that the girls and their teacher … fell into something of a whole in time and space, interpreted by readers as a time warp, portal or time machine.
Picnic at Hanging Rock is a masterpiece of world cinema - one of the top movies of all time. It is one of the best mystery movies, but not for everyone. You will be able to fully enjoy the film if you let yourself drown in its visual beauty and mysticism.
Try not to ask who, why and how. Afterall, we don’t always have answers to these questions in our real lives – why should we dwell on them in the movie.
Picnic at Hanging Rock is one of the best mystery movies of all time, allow it to mystify you.
FILMiconic movie rating:
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Rotten Tomatoes movie rating:
90% certified fresh based on critics' movie reviews
83% based on viewers' movie reviews
IMDb movie rating:
7.6 out of 10 based on critics' and viewers' movie reviews
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