Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

picnic at hanging rock poster 1975 movie
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Weird, odd, eerie, great looking, ghostly quality

Lack of resolution might frustrate viewers

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Picnic at Hanging Rock

Studio:  Picnic Productions

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense/Drama/Horror

Release Date(s):  August 8, 1975

MPAA Rating:  PG

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‘Tis a lovely day for a picnic!

It is St. Valentine’s Day in 1900, and the girls of Appleyard College have been given permission to be accompanied to Hanging Rock for the day.  When four of the girls go up into Hanging Rock, only one comes down in hysterics and another teacher disappears headed up to find them.  The search for the missing girls begins and the truth of what happened on Hanging Rock may never be solved.

Directed by Peter Weir, Picnic at Hanging Rock adapts the 1967 novel by Joan Lindsay.  The story (and the novel) claim to be based on a real event, though it is a fictional story.  The art house film has gained a cult following over the years and was a critical and financial success for Australian films.  A remastered version of the film has been released as part of the Criterion Collection (Criterion #29).

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The latest 1900 hiking gear!

Do not judge this film by how it looks on the shelf.  By the cover, Picnic at Hanging Rock doesn’t sound like a very interesting film.  A group of mopey school girls sitting around just screams of a boring period piece.  Instead of this, you get one of the strangest films you might ever see.

I have a hard time even classifying Picnic at Hanging Rock.  You could call it a mystery, a thriller, a drama, or even a horror film…but no genre classifications are satisfying.  The story isn’t really a mystery (there is no solution…something that might frustrate some viewers), it is rather intentionally slow paced to prevent it from being thrilling, it is too extreme to be a period drama, and the horror of the film is more internal.  You could even argue there is a strange sexual tension throughout the film…though there is no strange sex in the film, some is heavily implied through imagery and longing stares.

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Scream if you hate picnics!

The cast Australian cast is primarily made up of actors who continued to act but few that made it fame in America.  Much like the movie, the acting is intentionally surreal and dreamy so you could argue the acting isn’t good at points, but I think it is stylized to fit with the film.  One of the only “senior” stand outs is This Sporting Life Oscar nominated Rachel Roberts as the rather intense school mistress who in her small role becomes an enigma herself.  Another prominent role as the valet is John Jarrett who has gained recent fame as the killer in the Wolf Creek series and the Oscar nominated Jacki Weaver appears in the film as the sympathetic maid Minnie.

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This seems like a good place for a nap

The film does look fantastic.  It is very atmospheric and that is why it is so hard to classify.  There is just something horrific about the disappearance and there is a sense of dread that the imagery brings up.  The looming Hanging Rock is rather non-threatening, but Weir makes it rather scary…combined with odd and oppressive sound effects and music which kind of reminds me of aspects of Italian horror films.  This is also amplified by the virginal, white dressed characters all heading into the heart of darkness…a wilderness that is wild and savage.

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Psycho teacher…

What does it all mean?  A final chapter to the novel Picnic at Hanging Rock was published after the death of Joan Lindsay which partially implied that the girls fell through a hole in time.  I kind of felt this implied in the movie as well with odd events involving stopped time and premonitions and the ancient history told about the Hanging Rock formation.  Is there a real answer?  No…but it is a fun, beautiful, mysterious movie that is worth exploring and contemplating none the less.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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