Friday, September 28, 2007

Picnic at Hanging Rock


Picnic at Hanging Rock; Drama, Australia, 1975; D: Peter Weir, S: Rachel Roberts, Helen Morse, Dominic Guard, Vivean Gray, Jane Vallis, Karen Robson

Australia, 1900. Mrs. Appleyard, principal of a girls school, decides to organize a picnic for Valentine's day for 20 students. Their destination is Hanging Rock, a rocky formation. Since the day is boring, 3 girls, among them Marion and Irma, and a teacher, climb up the Hanging Rock and mysteriously disappear. The police organizes a search party, but without success. Only when the young Michael decides to search for himself, does he find Irma unconscious. In the meantime, student Sara, a close friend of Marion's, falls into depression and commits suicide. Since Irma doesn't remember anything, the search is abandoned. Mrs. Appleyard commits suicide.

What to say about "Picnic at Hanging Rock"? That feminine meditative-enigmatic drama deserves praise for courage of director Peter Weir who decided to direct a thin story that consists only out of 3 segments (the disappearance of the girls, the search for them, depression of the students in the school) and enrich it with a suggestive mood (the neat cinematography even won a BAFTA), but it's so mild that it simply doesn't deserve to be called a great film. The first segment emphasises esoteric in a very good way (watches of the professors stopped exactly at 12:00 pm when reaching Hanging Rock; a fast motion scene of ants who walk all over the food...) yet the girls get lost already 30 minutes into the film, thus the rest of the plot is very overstretched and slightly boring. Even though the basic plot, mystery and premise are reminiscent of Antonioni's classic "The Adventure", many characters remain one dimensional figures, even the main protagonist Mrs. Appleyard (Rachel Roberts), thus avoiding deeper psychological insight into isolation and alienation, so it's generally speaking better to regard the film as an allegory.

Grade:++

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