Picnic At Hanging Rock - Blu-ray Review

'laced with an unknown threat and a real appreciation by Weir of how to unsettle an audience'

A revered classic of Australian cinema, credited by many as being the first film to receive acclaim in the international arena, Peter Weir's 1975 film is also remarkable in its wider influence on the mystery thriller as a whole. Taking the plight of the disappearance of three school girls and their teacher as its base, Picnic At Hanging Rock brings in themes on the power of dreams, of freedom and of institutionalism, without ever suggesting a conclusion to any of the questions it raises. Indeed, Weir's film is incredibly brave, even in modern terms, in simply presenting material and occurrences and leaving audiences to judge the drip-fed facts from there.

That Picnic does all of this inside a distinctly individual aesthetic, created in a dream-like state of floating natural shots and eerie string music, is all the more praise to Weir's creative talent and well-delivered visual mastery. Picnic is a film which shoots for the ethereal and, unlike some efforts, succeeds in not marginalising its content with whimsical flights of fancy.

Indeed, whilst the film is eager to emphasise its dream-like nature (within the first few moments someone has uttered the line 'like a dream within a dream'), some moments are more nightmarish, leaving a distinct feeling of unease as the story of the girl's disappearance winds back into a look at their college and brief glances at townsfolk invested in some way in their vanishing. The second attempt to find the girls on the rock by Michael and Albert (Dominic Guard and John Jarratt) and the return of a certain character to the college are particularly haunting and powerful scenes, laced with an unknown threat and a real appreciation by Weir of how to unsettle an audience.

In the director's cut, shorter than the original version by eight minutes, running to just one-hundred and seven in total, it's a shame that a decent amount of the running time is given over to the opening which mixes in far too much severely dated panpipe music with a detailed look at the girls disappearing which borders on the ponderous. After this is over though, the film quickly becomes terrifyingly gripping, producing an enigma of a mystery film which is less about the perhaps miraculous and fatalistic 'how' and much more about the ambiguous 'why'.

Picnic At Hanging Rock will be available in the UK from 26th July 2010 on Director's Cut Blu-ray

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'Go into this one to partake in the atmosphere that soaks through the entire movie and you will not be displeased' - Row Three

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