I watched this movie once. Ideally, I would watch it again before reviewing it, but who has that luxury? I do, actually; it's just that I'm busy. Try not to ask too many questions. That's a prudent nugget of advice to follow, and it applies to 1975's Picnic at Hanging Rock. This is an inscrutable grabber that involves the disappearance of schoolmarms and day-pupils at the turn of the 20th century. Hanging Rock is a real geological formation, a mamelon (pronounced "land lump") forged by volcanic lava spillage. Hanging Rock (you know I'm referring to the film because it's bold) is entirely fictional, however, despite author Joan Lindsay's claims that it might have been based on historical facts.
That's right. We're dealing with the adaptation of a novel. From what I gather, Lindsay left the ending open to interpretation. Screenwriter Cliff Green and director Peter Weir take the same approach with the motion picture, but in my supplicatory opinion, the mystery isn't supposed to be a mystery. Huh? If you send out a probe for a sampling of other reviews, you will come across a mess of far-reaching theories and cherry-picked conjecture. The girls fell into a wormhole! They were suspended in time! They were raped by gypsies! They were abducted by unidentified flying fucking saucers! Okay, those are plausible scenarios.
But does it matter what happened? I mean, really? To me, Hanging Rock is about the outgrowth and backwash of tragedy. It's about how seismic loss changes the lives of those affected. Whether the apprentices at a finishing school were deflowered by raiders or stolen away by intergalactic pillagers, their loved ones are still left with a void. It causes them to do irrational things. I really, really like the way the script examines these issues. Weir looks at shock and grief from a sideways glance, as most Australian auteurs are apt to do. Oh, did I not mention that Hanging Rock is a wad of Ozploitation madness?
I've been beefing up on Australian horror flesh-ticklers, and I've noticed a linking plot mechanism. They're all...hazy. Distant. Accessibility plays second fiddle to gonzo ambiance. I tend to get frustrated when edible storytelling is low on the totem pole, but in the case of Picnic at Hanging Rock, it definitely works. Visually, it's a dream. The camera movements are supple, the scenery is striking and Anne-Louise Lambert is cute. She portrays Miranda, the lass on the poster. The only character who sours my milk is Edith, the dumpy crosspatch lacking an inside voice. Motherfuck, she grated my bones. The rock didn't even want her! Yogi Bear can be seen standing behind her in a phantom frame aiming a musket at her skull.
Why Yogi Bear? It's a picnic, people! C'mon! Blimey, did the ants carry your sense of humor to their hill? NOTE: My rating is somewhat conservative. I have a hunch that it will climb after repeat viewings.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 11:14 PM