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Picnic at Hanging Rock (The Criterion Collection)

4.1 out of 5 stars 167 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.


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

Special Features

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

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:
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: November 3, 1998
  • Run Time: 115 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (167 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0780021134
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,454 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Picnic at Hanging Rock (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Trevor Willsmer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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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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By A Customer on May 22, 2000
Format: DVD
This is a great movie based on an even greater book. If you are able to,I suggest first reading the book then seeing the movie. In doing so,you may find yourself not quite so confused as to what happens in the end. The clues are there in the book and to a certain extent they are in the film. Having said this,let's continue...
This is a film about the dissaperance of three virginal girls and their stuffy,repressed teacher, who dissapear while picnicing at Hanging Rock. One girl is finally found and the others are gone forever. But gone to where? and more importantly,what happened to make them dissapear in the first place? That is the very mystery you as a viewer must solve.
Read the book,watch the film,then read the book again. Pay careful attention to what you are reading and what you are watching and the answer will come. If not,that just adds to the mystique of this wonderful film. You will find yourself haunted by this film and unable to forget it. Months,even years after seeing it you will still be wondering...What happend? If you still are unable to come to a satisfying conclusion on your own or you want to see if what you think happens is really what happened,then I have some mystery solving news for you. Get the book Secret of Hanging Rock,it is written by the same woman who wrote Picnic at Hanging Rock and was to be published after her death. The book is out there,but you may have trouble finding it. You may find you were right all along or you may find you were way off base. Either way this is a film not to be missed.
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