Saturday, February 28, 2009

Day Twenty-Two: Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) - Rank 5/5


Breathtaking, hypnotic and enigmatic, this is easily one of the best films I've ever seen (and I don't make that assertion lightly). Peter Weir has perfectly crafted a mystery surrounding the disappearance of three girls and a schoolteacher on a Valentine's Day picnic. The film offers no clear cut answers as to what exactly happened, frequently dropping clues more for confusion rather than resolution. To try and deduce the truth or "right answer" behind the incident is to miss the point of the film altogether. Like Peter Weir's fantastic follow-up to this film, "The Last Wave," the theme is more focused on presenting a clash of cultures.

Set at the turn of the twentieth century, a group of girls from a boarding school are plopped into the vast, untamed expanse of Australia's back country. This fabulous juxtaposition is poised before us from the very start as we listen to the school's principal (exquisitely played by Rachel Roberts) warns of the dangers of the outback - the multitude of venomous snakes and insects that populate the treacherous rock-to young females dressed in full, pure white, Victorian apparel. Sense is pitted against superstition and logic and reason are set against the mysterious and unexplained. The latter haunts many of the lead characters in the film as they struggle to understand, explain and resolve the incident, only to learn as they delve deeper into the mystery, that there may be no solution. A second theme of obsession over the unexplainable then deftly weaves itself into the film (a sense of compulsion similar to that exhibited in David Fincher's "Zodiac").

From the moment you begin watching the opening credit sequence, complemented with a mesmerizing, pan flute score, you're drawn in. Upon completion of my first viewing, I pressed "Play" and began it all over again, only to realize that it feels even fresher upon second viewing. My great regret now is that I didn't indulge in this film while my good friend Robert was still living. He long-considered this his favorite film, and the framed one-sheet from the film that once hung in his apartment now resides in the manager's office of the theatre I work at. I certainly can understand now why he had such adoration for the film.

Watch the Trailer

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