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Picnic at Hanging Rock: The Criterion Collection (Widescreen)

Rachel Roberts , Anne-Louise Lambert , Peter Weir    PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
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Product Description


Situated somewhere between supernatural horror and lush Victorian melodrama, director Peter Weir's lyrical, enigmatic masterpiece is an imaginative tease. The setting is a proper turn-of-the century Australian boarding school for girls, a suffocating institution built on strict moral codes, repressed sexuality, and a subtle but enforced class structure. As the film opens, girls draped in immaculate white dress prepare for a picnic at the nearby volcanic formation, Hanging Rock, and Weir hangs an air of dark foreboding over the proceeding. "You'll have to love someone else, because I won't be here very long," says one virginal girl, Miranda, to her friend. Her words are prophetic: during the picnic, Miranda, along with two other girls and an uptight schoolmistress, vanish into the rocks. While a search party repeatedly returns to the rock to look for either the girls or the reasons for their disappearance, Weir leaves the mystery unsolved. Like Antonioni's L'Avventura, the vanishing is open to numerous interpretations--both rational and illusory--but Weir drops enough allegorical clues that it feels like a parable. He transforms the landscape and weather into menacing and eerie images; outlines of faces can be seen in the rocks, while the oppressive heat beating down on the picnic doubles as an atmospheric metaphor for the girls' unbearable social and sexual confinement. These images and other plot twists toward the end hint that this mysterious vanishing, on some level, was actually a form of spiritual escape--the only out, other than death, from the film's bleak, tightly structured community. Regardless of how you see it, though, this hypnotic puzzle remains the highlight of the '70s Australian New Wave. The DVD version presents the film in letterbox form. --Dave McCoy

Special Features

Remastered high-definition digital film transfer, supervised and approved by director peter Weir. Extended interview with Weir. New piece on the making of the film, featuring interviews from 2003 with executive producer Patricia Lovell, producers Hal Mcelroy and Jim Mcelroy, and cast members. New introduction by film scholar David Thomson, author of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film. A Recollection . . . Hanging Rock 1900 (1975), an on-set documentary hosted by Lovell and featuring interviews with Weir, actor Rachel Roberts, and source novel author Joan Lindsay. Homesdale (1971), an award-winning black comedy by Weir. Trailer, PLUS: an essay by author Megan Abbott.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Fine Psychological Thriller! April 9 2012
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
This film is based on a novel by the same title, written about a mysterious disappearance of a group of girls on a school outing in the bushland of southern Australia in the early part of the 20th century. There are a couple of levels at which this film can be appreciated and understood. To begin, the setting is so imperial England that you would think you were back in the Mother Country at any one of a number of Victorian boarding schools for young girls, when in actuality this is an outpost of the Empire. The learning environment is strict, unyielding and rather unimaginative in its curriculum. Against this stark backdrop, we learn that the students have been promised a school picnic at a spot in the countryside called 'Hanging Rock'. How typically English: a term-ending trip to the beach for all the well-behaved students who deserve to be free from the tyranny of the classroom for one day. Things go ominously wrong on a number of counts right from the start. The plans for the outing are vague; details of their destination are sketchy at best; and the drivers are a bunch of irresponsible, whisky-swigging leering louts. Sometime in the afternoon, a group of head-strong girls head off to trek to the actual rock itself. This little troupe is led by a girl who seems to possess a siren-like charm that fearlessly draws the others into the dangers of the great beyond. The film follows as three of them inexplicably disappear into the cleft of Hanging Rock. They were later followed by a schoolmarm who also disappeared. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars EERIE BUT INTRIGUING. April 8 2004
First, this enigmatic film is NOT based on a true story. A group of school girls go on a school excursion to "Hanging Rock" in Victoria, Australia. The period is around early 1900s. Four girls decide to climb the rock along with a teacher. At the end of the day, only one hysterical girl can be found, and can shed no light on what happened to the others.
Sound intriguing enough? This film asks more questions that it answers, inviting the viewer to dream up their own explanation for what happened to the girls. According to the Joan Lindsay novel's "missing chapter", the girls were sucked down a wormhole (or something), but I think both Lindsay and Weir were wise to leave this out. Which perhaps adds to the mystique.
In all its nebulous beauty, the film actually does a remarkable job of capturing a resplendent mood. The Australian vistas are even more evocative than that of "The Piano" -- ethereal and brooding. This curious rock that hangs over the film with its menacing presence is given almost mythical status, and even to the viewer on the other side of the screen seems oddly alluring.
Personally I'd have liked the ending to be a bit different, but hey, the movie is hauntingly memorable, and if it's any consolation, it's not until after the movie you may wish for a more clear-cut resolution.
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By Ted
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.
This film, often mistakenly belived to be based on a true story, which it is not, is set on Valentine's day in the year 1900.
This film is based on the book by Joan Lindsay.
A group of adolescent girls go on a boarding school trip to Hanging Rock, a volcanic outcropping in southern Australia. 3 of the girls and one of the teachers climb to the top and vanish. a week later one of them is found but not a trace remains of the others.
The linear notes by Vincent Canby that come with the DVD say it best. "Horror need not always be a long-fanged gentleman in evening clothes or a dismembered corpse or a doctor who keeps a brain in his gold fish bowl."
This film remains one of my favorite "horror" movies. Even with no on screen deaths or bodies, it remains one the most frightening PG rated films.
The film leaves more questions than answers.
A remark made to one of the girls before she vanished, "You look like a Botticelli angel" by a classmate, could be an indication that the girls are not of this world but would not explain why one of them returns unharmed.
The girls' spellbound trance-like state as they ascend to the summit could indicate that they are drawn to the top by a "Pied Piper" kind of entity.
The musical score of this film adds to its incredible storyline and has a great effect on the viewer. I love the music in this film but unfortunately there is no soundtrack available.
This is one of my favorite movies and is very mystifying and though-provoking.
This is also the first English language film in the Criterion collection to include English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impared.
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I would highly recommend this offbeat Peter Weir offering to anyone who enjoys thoughtful period pieces or stylistically distinctive films. The film, which takes place in pseudo-Victorian outback Australia, concerns the disappearance of four boarding school ladies during a visit to a massive rock outcropping.
While the mystery behind the ladies disappearance is certainly interesting enough, what really makes this movie are:
1) the faithful depiction of the unusual setting and space, which have a vividness and authenticity usually associated more with great literature, and
2) the high technical quality. The film is so beautifully shot, with such ethereal lighting and score, that the movie transcends its plot.
Better yet, this transcendence of plot is clearly the director's intention. Rather than try to solve an unsolvable mystery, he is interested in the nature of mystery itself. We are given different (utterly different in fact) perspectives on what happened might have happened, ranging from the girls ascending directly to heaven as sacrificial angels to their being defiled and murdered. In its subjectivity, and shifting perspective, it seems to carry the Rashomon-like message that some things are unknowable.
The transcendence of plot can be connected to point one above as well. The girls' sense of confinement is perfectly captured in the scene in which we feel their sense of liberation at simply being allowed to take off their gloves. One woman in particular seems too beautiful and good for that-or any other-sexist world. In a sense she is so coveted that her only hope at self-definition is escape. Hence her climb, shoeless, up into Hanging Rock. Perhaps she endeavors to escape the socially sanctioned attempts people will make at possessing her in the world below. In this sense it could be seen as ironic that the humdrum people below naturally assume that the ladies have been abused on the mountain. 'The truth' remains a mystery.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedium ad infinitum, avec mademoiselles
"Picnic at Hanging Rock" is a beautifully shot movie about the mysterious disappearance of 4 women on a geologically intriguing exposed volcanic plug. Read more
Published on July 13 2004 by K. Gittins
2.0 out of 5 stars Overrated, pretentious, but interesting
I came to this film fully expecting to like it because of the many glowing reviews I'd read over the years. Read more
Published on July 5 2004 by Rosamond1
1.0 out of 5 stars Really bad and cliche...
and not even worth further words. Save your time and money.
Published on June 23 2004 by G. Alcock
5.0 out of 5 stars UTTERLY BEAUTIFUL
so stunning, i first saw this film 6 years ago, and i have not seen a film that has come close!
Published on May 16 2004 by sally strawberry
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating film
Sorry for my bad english. I'm Italian and I fear that can't explain well my opinion. I try:
For me who see this Peter Weir's film or love it or hate it. Are not a third way. Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2004 by giancarlo longo
5.0 out of 5 stars Chilling and mysterious
While I prefer Australian director Peter Weir's nightmarish World War I epic "Gallipoli," "Picnic at Hanging Rock" certainly ranks as one of his best efforts. Read more
Published on Dec 26 2003 by Jeffrey Leach
5.0 out of 5 stars True Story of Schoolgirl Disappearance in the Outback
This really is an amazingly engrossing film given the limited case information that director Peter Weir has to work with. Read more
Published on Dec 1 2003 by OverTheMoon
3.0 out of 5 stars A story like lantana
This brilliant feature film is actually a true story of 4 people getting lost and never being seen again on a school excursion to hanging rock in victoria, Australia on valentines... Read more
Published on Nov. 5 2003 by "barry_202"
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Nearly Flawless (**** 1/2)
One of the breakthrough Australian films of the 1970s, directed by Peter Weir in his unique style. A group of schoolgirls and some of their teachers go off to the geological... Read more
Published on Oct. 23 2003 by Cody
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