on December 31, 2008
Peter Weir greatly improved upon Joan Lindsay's novel of like name (in particular by choosing not to follow her storyline to its controversial "closed secret" ending) in this brilliantly-shot, capably-acted and at times intensely spooky story from 1975. A slow, quiet film, noted for the "intoxicated/otherworldly" quality of some of its imagery, Picnic at Hanging Rock helped establish Weir's reputation on an international scale.
On Saint Valentine's Day, 1900, an outing from Appleyard College, near Victoria, Australia, sets in motion a maddening psychological mystery which follows the disappearance of several schoolgirls in the midst of a picnic at the foot of a famed geological formation locally called Hanging Rock. The girls, led the popular Miranda (played by the strikingly beautiful Anne-Louise Lambert) set off on foot to climb the rock and shortly after reaching the summit of the structure, seemingly vanish from the face of the earth. Weeks of investigation by police and searches by hundreds of locals fail to turn up either the missing girls or any evidence that might suggest an explanation for what may have befallen them. As this frustratingly impossible mystery intrudes into the inner landscapes of those at the college and the local community as a whole, life attempts to continue for those who knew the missing students. Gradually and by degrees the incident at the rock changes (and ruins?) many at the college and beyond, most especially the institution's beleaguered headmistress, Mrs. Appleyard, who takes to drink, and becomes increasingly dictatorial.
Picnic at Hanging Rock is among the more hypnotic motion pictures ever made, and a viewer is soon lulled into a physically relaxed but mentally heightened state as the perplexing turn of events onscreen weaves a dense spell. The scenery Weir employs is simply striking, be it manmade or the natural majesty of the simultaneously immense and claustrophobic Hanging Rock itself. Striking also is the memorable soundtrack, worth listening to in its own right, with Bruce Smeaton's work achieving a near-perfect marriage of sound to image.
Some may react strongly to the conclusion of the film, which I won't further comment on here, but I can't imagine anyone would walk away from Picnic at Hanging Rock feeling unimpressed. It is worth seeing, and if you can find it, worth owning.
I can't explain why this film is one of my Top 5 favorites of all time. Maybe it's the beautiful cinematography, the stellar acting, incredibly foreboding atmosphere. Something about it just resonates within me and I find myself getting lost in it's beauty, like when you're just waking up from a wonderful dream and you try to stay in that world just a bit longer. This is a gorgeous Criterion edition, it comes housed with a new edition of the original novel, which I'm looking forward to reading soon. I've taken a few photos of the case and contents, so check the item description above for those, I hope it helps.
on June 15, 2014
Australian director Peter Weir made his first major impression with both film critics and the public with PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, a strange, haunting underplayed horror story. There are no monsters...no ghosts...simply a frightening, sexually suggestive, yarn that remains in a viewer’s consciousness long after the picture has ended.
On Valentine’s Day in 1901, three young schoolgirls and their teacher disappear without a trace while on an excursion to Hanging Rock, a peculiar geological outcropping.
What happened to them? We never find out.
Eerie, moody, the 1975 release is based on a novel by Joan Lindsay and stars Rachel Roberts as the school’s headmistress, Helen Morse as a teacher and features Jacki Weaver as a maid at the school. Russell Boyd’s color cinematography is stunning.
The new 3-disc set (1 Blu-ray/2 DVD) from The Criterion Collection contains a remastered high-definition digital film transfer, supervised by Weir with a 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include an extended interview with Weir, a new featurette on the making of the film, featuring interviews from 2003 with executive producer Patricia Lovell, producers Hal McElroy and Jim McElroy and several cast members. There is also a new Introduction by film scholar David Thomson, a vintage on-set documentary that includes interviews with Weir, actress Rachel Roberts and source novel author Joan Lindsay. Additionally, the set includes HOMESDALE (1971), an award-winning black comedy by Weir.
Printed matter in this impressive set consists of a booklet containing essays on the film and Weir by Megan Abbott and Marek Haltof, plus a new paperback edition of Joan Lindsay’s original novel, which was previously out of print in the United States.
© Michael B. Druxman
on June 22, 2014
"Picnic at Hanging Rock" (1975) is directed by Peter Weir (Gallipoli, The Last Wave, The Truman Show, Master and Commander, Dead Poet's Society, Witness, Mosquito Coast) and based on the novel by Joan Lindsay. The movie was thought to have some historical fact though was essentially written from the dreams of Joan Lindsay. The film is set in 1900s and is about the disappearance of four girls on a picnic at Hanging Rock. The film has a dream like quality at times that blends a subtle form of horror and mystery. This film is often mentioned when discussing the emergence of the Australian New Wave of filmmaking that lasted for about ten years from the early 1970s to the 1980s.
Criterion has done a wonderful job with this release which includes numerous features such as the making of the film, interviews with the director, actors, producers, film scholars, and the author. Also included is an earlier film by Weir called "Homesdale"(1971). There is a booklet featuring an essay by Megan Abbott, and excerpt from film critic Marek Haltof. And remarkably there is also included a nearly 200 page pocket copy of the novel "Picnic at Hanging Rock."
on June 18, 2014
If you are as big a fan of Peter Weir's "Picnic at Hanging Rock" as I am, you will know that it has been long overdue for the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray treatment. Prior to this release, the only editions available in the U.S. were an older Criterion DVD with no special features (save for the trailer) and many other region DVDs with a wealth of special features that were not playable on U.S. DVD players. I was excited to see that Joan Lindsey's original book is included as a part of this edition, which has been previously out of print and difficult to get a hold of. My only complaint is that there are other special features, such as interviews with the girls who played Irma and Edith, available in different edition DVDs that unfortunately were not included on this DVD, so it is not really a definitive edition. Still, the sound and picture quality are beautiful and pristine and the special features are excellent and informative. This is the best Criterion Collection purchase I have ever made and the first time I am aware of their releasing a book along with a movie. Highly recommended for fans of the novel and film, you will NOT be disappointed.
Peter Weir's "Picnic at Hanging Rock" takes the psychological thriller (think "Don't Look Now" for comparison) in some interesting and uncharted directions but manages to keep the audience engaged. Based on a popular novel, Weir's tale of school girls that go missing near a reportedly enchanted rock outcropping doesn't focus on what happened to the girls so much as it does the impact of their disappearance on those they've left behind. If you're expecting a traditional narrative, you're looking in the wrong place.
The Criterion edition is a big upgrade over their previous DVD edition. Weir supervised the 4K transfer of his film himelf ensuring that we get a transfer that is true to the natural film look of the original and eschews the overuse of digital noise reduction and grain management which often times makes older films look like they were shot on high def video.
This release is a combo DVD/blu-ray (before Criterion elected to do away with this approach). The blu-ray is one dual layered disc while the DVD features the movie with a few extras on the dual layered DVD and the bulk of the extras on the second DVD. The orginal audio is presented along with an updated 5.1 lossless mix.
Packaged with a copy of the original novel (which has been out-of-print for some time)AND a booklet with an essay, Criterion has largely done a terrific job here. My only complaint is I personally dislike cardboard holders because they don't take shelf wear very well. The discs are housed in a thin cardboard package and that, along with the essay and the novel, are housed in a slightly bigger cardboard box.
Weir's film isn't for everyone. Weir explores the mystical aspects of the local culture much as he did with "The Last Wave" (I'm still waiting for a great blu-ray edition of this thriller). "Picnic" isnt' about HOW and WHY the girls disappeared (or even where they disappeared to) but about the psychological impact it has on the school and those around them. For those expecting a more traditional thriller that solves all the elements of the mystery, you'd do well to look elsewhere as this film doesn't play by those rules.
on March 29, 2014
This film with The Last Wave marks the period of Weir's filmmaking--the Australian period--I love best. He is in his element. There is mystery and magic in the imagery, the music and the storytelling in general. In both Picnic and Wave the viewer is left to fill in the blanks with personal knowledge of how the world works (some anthropological understanding of the region and its native people furthers one's comprehension of the story's significance).
When I last viewed Picnic in a large theater (being screened along with Wave), the place was packed. People were sitting in the aisles and standing three-deep at the back of theater. Fortunately for them without seats, the fire department didn't throw them out; and fortunately for the rest of us, there was no need.
Watch the film and interpret the film's meaning for yourself. I don't want to spoil the spell of watching it by giving anything away. Most of you will want to dig deeper into the meaning of the story after watching; but that wonder won't spoil the frisson the film brings with even a rudimentary understanding that there are many things in this world we know little about.
Made on location at Hanging Rock, Victoria Strathalbyn and Clare, Marbury School South Australia, and South Australian Film Corporation Studios.
"On Saturday 14th February 1900 a party of schoolgirls from Appleyard Collage picnicked at Hanging Rock near Mt. Macedon in the state of Victoria.
During the afternoon several members of the party disappeared without a trace..."
I cannot explain the specific attraction of this movie (Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock.) It is worth watching over again just to get the nuances and suggestions that were not verbalized.
on February 21, 2015
Years ago I bought the original Criterion Collection DVD edition of "Picnic at Hanging Rock". The back of the DVD box claims the movie is in widescreen format, but it is not. It is letterboxed; widescreen in a 4:3 format. I guess that works with the older 4:3 TVs, but on the new standard 16:9 sets, it leaves black bars on the right, left, top, and bottom of the screen. This new Blu-ray/DVD edition finally gets it right, giving us a true widescreen version of the film. Here are some observations on this new edition:
The new DVD is dual-layer, and slightly larger (7.37GB) than the original Criterion DVD (6.57GB). I note this because very often the DVDs included with BD/DVD sets are single-layer, inferior versions of the DVD compared to DVD-only versions of a film you can buy. I give Criterion credit for not doing this with the DVD here; it is a quality version of the film. The only real difference between the original DVD and the new one is that the new DVD is in 16:9 format, compared to the letterboxed original DVD. The quality of the video is improved over the original, but there is some grain and a lot of artifacts visible.
The Blu-ray disk is also in 16:9 format, of course. The film quality is very good, but not great; I assume that is due to the condition of the master that was used to create the new disks. But the BD version removes all the artifacts seen on the DVD, so it is a definitive improvement in that way. Colors are more vibrant and more detail is visible, too, with very little grain evident. You certainly want to watch the BD disk, not the DVD. I'm being a bit over-critical when I say the video quality is not great. It is so much better than the original Criterion DVD, and really looks fine.
There are two DVDs in this new edition. One contains the movie, the other contains the extras. The Blu-ray disk includes both the film and the same extras that are on the second DVD.
I am a bit surprised that this new set is "director-approved", with the transfer supervised by Peter Weir himself. I say that because Weir changed the format of the film for this new version. The film was originally produced in 1.66:1 format, which is not the same as the 16:9 version we see here. 16:9 fills the whole screen, while 1.66:1 is slightly wider and narrower. If the film were in 1.66:1 format here, there would be small black bars at the top and bottom of a 16:9 screen. Personally, I would prefer that over this modified version. We lose a little bit of information on the right and left sides of the screen, since it had to be slightly cropped to make it fit a 16:9 screen (trust me; I obsessively compared the two versions of the film and confirmed this). I always prefer the original format of a film over one modified in any way. I wish this new BD were in the original format. But that is a minor quibble, since this is a much better version than the original letterboxed DVD, and very little is lost in this new version, certainly nothing of any importance. Finally we get to see the film fill our screens, instead of having a tiny film with black bars on the sides, top, and bottom of the screen!
The audio is improved on the Blu-ray disk, too. The original Criterion DVD had Dolby 5.1 mix; the new BD is DTS-HD Master Audio, which means it is bit-for-bit identical to the studio master. The audio is center-channel heavy, with little to no surround effects, the same as the original DVD. I would have liked more enveloping sound, especially in the outdoor scenes, with insects and birds buzzing around. But again, I'm being a bit picky.
The inclusion of the book the movie was made from is a terrific bonus, too. That alone adds greatly to the value of this edition of the film. I hope this becomes more of a trend for disk releases of films that are made from books, if the authors or their estates allow it.
Of course, my review here is more about the technical aspects of the new BD/DVD set than the film itself. I give this new set 5 stars both for the technical improvements (in spite of my nit-picking), and because this has long been one of my favorite films. it is a great film, one that sticks in your mind long after you've watched it, and one you will want to watch more than once. Finally we have it in a format that it deserves!
on July 13, 2011
From Thomas Knight in Australia.
Sell the car,sell the house but in God's name get this Blu Ray film !! It is a Lu Lu. and as a filmmaker I view all films with a critical eye.Color,Sound,quality,all out of this world,worth 200 stars.One has had to put up with an inferior print for years,but now thanks to Amazon here is a print like it was made yesterday,and NO ARTIFACTS OR ANNOYING CUE MARKS in the top right hand corner. The HD sound on Blu Ray adds another great gift.As I said at the start GET IT.!!