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Picnic at Hanging Rock (The Criterion Collection) (1979)

Rachel Roberts , Anne-Louise Lambert , Peter Weir  |  PG |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Rachel Roberts, Anne-Louise Lambert, Vivean Gray, Helen Morse, Kirsty Child
  • Directors: Peter Weir
  • Writers: Cliff Green, Joan Lindsay
  • Producers: A. John Graves, Hal McElroy, Jim McElroy, Patricia Lovell
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Letterboxed, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: November 3, 1998
  • Run Time: 115 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0780021134
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,321 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Picnic at Hanging Rock (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Soundtrack remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Liner notes by Vincent Canby

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Situated somewhere between supernatural horror and lush Victorian melodrama, director Peter Weir's lyrical, enigmatic masterpiece is an imaginative tease. The setting is a proper turn-of-the century Australian boarding school for girls, a suffocating institution built on strict moral codes, repressed sexuality, and a subtle but enforced class structure. As the film opens, girls draped in immaculate white dress prepare for a picnic at the nearby volcanic formation, Hanging Rock, and Weir hangs an air of dark foreboding over the proceeding. "You'll have to love someone else, because I won't be here very long," says one virginal girl, Miranda, to her friend. Her words are prophetic: during the picnic, Miranda, along with two other girls and an uptight schoolmistress, vanish into the rocks. While a search party repeatedly returns to the rock to look for either the girls or the reasons for their disappearance, Weir leaves the mystery unsolved. Like Antonioni's L'Avventura, the vanishing is open to numerous interpretations--both rational and illusory--but Weir drops enough allegorical clues that it feels like a parable. He transforms the landscape and weather into menacing and eerie images; outlines of faces can be seen in the rocks, while the oppressive heat beating down on the picnic doubles as an atmospheric metaphor for the girls' unbearable social and sexual confinement. These images and other plot twists toward the end hint that this mysterious vanishing, on some level, was actually a form of spiritual escape--the only out, other than death, from the film's bleak, tightly structured community. Regardless of how you see it, though, this hypnotic puzzle remains the highlight of the '70s Australian New Wave. The DVD version presents the film in letterbox form. --Dave McCoy

Product Description

Twenty years after it swept Australia into the international film spotlight, Peter Weir's stunning 1975 masterpiece remains as ineffable as the unanswerable mystery at its core. A Valentine's Day picnic at an ancient volcanic outcropping turns to disaster for the residents of Mrs. Appleyard's school when a few young girls inexplicably vanish on Hanging Rock. A lyrical, meditative film charged with suppressed longings, Picnic at Hanging Rock is at long last available in a pristine widescreen director's cut with a newly-minted Dolby® digital 5.1 channel soundtrack.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
145 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As Haunting as They Come August 8, 2000
Format:DVD
Do films get much stranger or more beautiful than this? To call Peter Weir's masterpiece "moody" and "atmospheric", as Leonard Maltin does in his brief review, is to grossly underemphasize the sui generis, quite visceral impact, the lush, almost swoon-inducing power, of this flagrantly bizarre work of art. It's actually difficult to describe "Picnic at Hanging Rock" in words because there's nothing else remotely like it. I'd say that another Australian film, "Heavenly Creatures" comes closest, but that movie's cumbersome claymation fantasy scenes and decisive conclusion are so far removed from the ethereal, open-ended nature of this film that the comparison falls apart instantly. There's something so unmentionably chilling, even nauseating, in the soft-focus camera-work and the intentionally stilted performances, that I'm not even able to evaluate the technical aspects of this film. It has its own vernacular, its own code, that owes nothing to what has come before. If forced, I'd say this is a story about repression, about humanity-vs.-nature, about our own inability to really grasp the vastness of the universe in which we live. It is certainly much more than the story of three girls and a school teacher who dissapear on a rock formation, as intruiging as that story certainly is. There are ideas at work here, conveyed through camera shots, angles, brief snatches of dialogue and silent pauses that we might not even be able to discuss, because we don't have the words or the courage to discuss them. Those expecting a genteel horror story of some sort or a traditional murder mystery will be confounded by "Picnic at Hanging Rock", for it offers only questions, not answers. Read more ›
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70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Weir should have left well enough alone March 5, 2006
Format:DVD
Sadly, like George Lucas before him, Peter Weir has replaced one beloved cut of the film that made his name, re-edited it and (so it seems) determined to keep the original version under lock and key. Bad move.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is one of those films that should have been left alone, but unfortunately Peter Weir's considerably shorter director's cut does the film no real favors. The additions are minor - a redundant scene of a reporter photographing the school and a very brief but much better introduction to the scene where Albert (Wolf Creek's John Jarrett) tells Michael (Dominic Guard) his dream about his sister - but the deletions in the last third are fairly substantial and surprisingly damaging - most notably the entire section of Irma thanking Albert for finding her on the Rock, Michael's growing relationship with Irma, the church service, Albert and Michael talking at night, and Mrs Appleyard removing Sarah's belongings. Sadly, while it may make the film even more elliptical as is Weir's wont, it diminishes the film's resonance and your involvement with the already rather sketchy characters, so it's a pity that only the director's cut now exists in a restored version (even the Australian 2-disc DVD only includes the cut scenes as extras).

Unfortunately, a la George Lucas, the original version was almost impossible to find aside from an incredibly poor standards conversion videotape made from a poor print back in the mid-90s before the Australian film industry took film preservation seriously. The restoration may look and sound better than the film ever has before, but it's a sad trade-off for the much better film Weir originally made.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true piece of moviemagic. March 18, 2001
Format:DVD
Austrailian director Peter Weir's beautiful, almost poetic, suspense film is truly one of the most unsettling experiences one can have in front of the television set. There are no false scares, no over-the-top madmen, no gory bloodbaths... just a hint of something unworldly... mysterious... dangerous. The film tales the tale of three young students and a teacher who disappear during a school picnic at an old volcanic outcropping known as Hanging Rock. There is no comprehendible explaination for the events. We hear rumors and get a few shaky witness recounts, but nothing solid. The film does not provide us with easy answers (only a few red herrings) and some may feel cheated by the film's conclusion. But those few will have missed the point of the film. It is a mystery, burning with eroticism, sparked with moody atmosphere. Weir gives us information, although we don't know what to trust and what not to believe. It's as if the solution is right on the tips of our tongues, but we can't quite spit it out. The entire setting of 'Picnic At Hanging Rock' is breathtaking but it is the rock structure itself that captures one's attention. Lined with crevaces and caves, it seems to breathe and stare. When the three young girls make their way towards their fate, it seems as if they are being called towards it, answering silently to it's wishes. The mere sight of it in the distance of the frame is bone-chilling. For however open-ended the film might be, it is ultimately satisfying. The sheer dread envoked over the 107 minutes of running time is sharp and clear. We feel as if we've just been told the most terrifying story of our lives. One that we don't know whether to believe or disbelieve. But either way, we can't deny it's power. Hats off to Criterion for bringing this wonderful and haunting film to DVD.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Beware of poison ants and snakes
Made on location at Hanging Rock, Victoria Strathalbyn and Clare, Marbury School South Australia, and South Australian Film Corporation Studios. Read more
Published 2 months ago by bernie
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful movie, can watch it again and again
I love the tone, undertones and subtleties of this movie. The group dynamics between the characters. Human psychology is well developed and craftily portrayed. Read more
Published 2 months ago by PJD
1.0 out of 5 stars One boring movie
why this was Critically acclaimed is beyond me it is a snooze fest from start to finish steer well clear
Published 2 months ago by prp
2.0 out of 5 stars A Film That Didn't Age Very Well
My wife and I actually had a picnic at Hanging Rock, Australia last month, so we were anxious to see the film that inspired us to visit. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Brian Baum
1.0 out of 5 stars The most boring film I have ever had the displeasure to sit through.
I saw this film at a group showing. After reading the reviews I anticipated a suspenseful and intriguing movie. Unfortunately it was extremely disappointing. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Paula Robertson
1.0 out of 5 stars CAVEAT: This DVD is NOT Captioned!
I was so looking forward to this film, based on the many positive reviews listed here as well as those by film critics like Roger Ebert, who ranks it among his "Great" films. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Ken Flick
4.0 out of 5 stars director's cuts are not always improvements
i didn't like this quite as much as when I saw it in its first release in the seventies. however, i also understand that I am seeing the "improved" version, aka the director' s... Read more
Published 8 months ago by carol irvin
5.0 out of 5 stars How Can Students Just Disappear?
The mysterious disappearance of students on holiday is as eerie as any ghost story or supernatural event. Read more
Published 9 months ago by richard Simons
4.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat disturbing film - at once bizarre, tragic, and beautiful with...
I have only seen the "Director's Cut" (just now on TCM) and judging by the second review on here, I wish I could have seen the original theatrical release. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jeff N
3.0 out of 5 stars Just okay
I don't like stories that go unfinished and this is one that is unfinished. Supposedly a true story and that just makes me wonder and I don't like that at all. Read more
Published 10 months ago by artist in residence
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