2007-11-27

Movies: Picnic At Hanging Rock









If you haven't seen
the Australian movie from 1975 by Peter Weir called Picnic At Hanging Rock I suggest you do that and at the same time I suggest you probably shouldn't read anymore of this post. There will be spoilers ahead. I mean it - REAL spoilers. If you have seen it and liked it you should think twice about continue reading. It might spoil something for you too. Just watch the trailer and the clips if you want to and then stop. You have been warned!





You who have seen it might recall that the movie "tells the story of the mysterious disappearance of three schoolgirls and their teacher during a picnic at a geological formation known as Hanging Rock on Valentine's Day in 1900. The reason for their disappearance, whether by human, natural or supernatural agency, is never discovered, but their disappearance has a profound effect upon everybody in their community." - Quote from Wikipedia's article on the film.

The screenplay is an adaption from Joan Lindsay's (1967) novel by the same name. What you might not know is that the story is NOT based on a true story. Even though it is sort of implied in the movie by it beginning with a text sign telling the basic story:

"On Saturday 14th February 1900 a party of schoolgirls from Appleyard College picnicked at Hanging Rock near Mt. Macedon in the state of Victoria. During the afternoon several members of the party disappeared without a trace..."

Thus the director skillfully and with very small means manipulates his audience into thinking that OK, they have made up pretty much everything other than this but at least that much has really happened. When I first saw the movie I must have been around 10-12 years old and that which got to me, besides the creepy mystery, was the fact that it had actually taken place.

According to Wikipedia's article on the book this manipulation of the audience was in line with the book an its author: "The novel is written in the form of a false document, implying that it is based on a true story and even begins and ends with a pseudo-historical prologue and epilogue, adding to the overall mystery-feel.""Lindsay has done little to dispel the myth that the story is based on truth, in many interviews either refusing to confirm it was entirely fiction, or hinting that parts of the book were fictitious, and others were not."

So, time for the second possible spoiler: Joan Lindsay wrote another final chapter of the book where everything was "explained"! "...though it was removed before publication and not released until 1987, two years after Lindsay's death." "It has been argued by many critics that much of the power of the original book stems from the suggestion that it was a true story, and the fact that the mystery in the book was never resolved, and therefore it was a good decision by the author to remove this material."

Plot summary:

"While walking past the hanging rock, the girls experience several incomprehensible phenomena. Driven giddy by some supernatural suggestion of the monolith, they throw their corsets over the cliff, though they never fall to the bottom and instead hang in space in an impossible fashion. The girls and Miss McCraw notice a mystical "hole in space". Marion, Miranda, and Miss McCraw transform into small creatures and crawl into a hole in the rock, which another boulder then covers, leaving Irma alone and clawing at the fallen rock."

Would you have wanted to know that before hand?


"All that we see or seem Is but a dream within a dream"
- E.A Poe


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UPDATE:

lliam wrote in the comments of this post:

"I had the good fortune of growing up on Joan Lindsey's property "Mulberry Hill" during the 70's, my parents even escorted her to the set during the making of the movie. I also happen to know that she never wrote an alternate 'ending'. She never explained the mystery to anyone even though she received hundreds of requests every year to do so. The so called 'missing chapter' was fabricated after her death in order to cash in on the popularity of the film and novel.

She was a great writer and a wonderful friend to my family and I. I'm glad you like 'Picnic' and please be comforted in the thought that the mystery is still un-explained."


As always - you decide what and who you want to believe....

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4 comments:

feckenbrenner said...

"All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream" - But that's Propaganda!

"Picnic" is one of my absolute movie favourites to. I remember being absolutely glued to the screen. Not even being able to go, until the credits rolled. (Before the days of tv-ads). Another movie that put me in the same kind of compelling wiewers limbo, is the french "Diva" by Benaix.

/Feckenbrenner

Lliam said...

I had the good fortune of growing up on Joan Lindsey's property "Mulberry Hill" during the 70's, my parents even escorted her to the set during the making of the movie. I also happen to know that she never wrote an alternate 'ending'. She never explained the mystery to anyone even though she received hundreds of requests every year to do so. The so called 'missing chapter' was fabricated after her death in order to cash in on the popularity of the film and novel.

She was a great writer and a wonderful friend to my family and I. I'm glad you like 'Picnic' and please be comforted in the thought that the mystery is still un-explained.

Cheers
Lliam Amor

P-E Fronning said...

feckenbrenner: Bro'. Do you think the use of music has a lot to do with creating this "viewers limbo" state? Or does it play a small part?

lliam: Thanks a lot for your comment. Of course Wikipedia is not to be trusted completely and I do want to trust you. However I don't know you so I'll just let the reader decide for him/herself. I'm adding your comment in the post. Thanks again for sharing your memories with us.

feckenbrenner said...

The music is extremely important of course. I immediately bought the soundtrack of Diva and Beneix, (pardon my previous French spelling), next movie Betty Blue. Equally important is the focus on the slow moving graphic scenery. Even though the two movies portray two totally different graphic ideals: The 70's nature romantic Picnic and the 80's Neo Art Deco in Diva.

/Feckenbrenner