The 1975 film by Peter
Weir based on the novel (1967) of the same name by author Joan Lindsay is an
Australian classic. Set in rural Australia in the small town of Woodland,
Victoria and nearby Hanging Rock, the film (and the original book) is perceived
as a true story with a pseudo-historical prologue and epilogue about three
school girls from Appleyard College and their teacher who go missing during a
picnic at Hanging Rock on Valentine’s Day 1900, and the impact on the local
A worldwide success and the first hit for Peter Weir, Picnic At Hanging Rock was a mixture of burgeoning sexuality, class, the repression of the British Empire and the ‘other’. The ‘other’ being the ancient land of the Australian continent. There is no mention of the over 400 tribes, each with their own language and traditions, of Aboriginal culture in the movie, but it is the underlying thread that is pulled and unravels the ‘civilisation’ of the British Empire. This beautifully shot, haunting movie is as lyrical and as ambiguous as the book. There are layers upon layers of imagery and themes from the ill treatment of children to clash of cultures. It is often emulated and even parodied. Pan piped music and the long haired beautiful blonde teenage girl, in white, seen through the sun-filtered male gaze - whether it is Botticelli or Peter Weir - is now an iconic image of the 1970s.
The movie is truly a classic as it holds up all these years later. It was the right movie at the right time. It came out in the same year as Robert Altman’s Nashville, Milos Forman’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon - each idiosyncratic and original. The dreamlike haziness of Picnic At Hanging Rock and the soundtrack made it distinctive and mesmerising. It put Australian film on the map.