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Diane

Picnic at Hanging Rock

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I caught this film for the first time a few days ago. Actually, I saw the director's cut, which trims the movie by about 7 minutes, I think. A very interesting mystery of a movie.

Any fans of the film here? Any big differences between the original theatrical version and the director's cut? In his review, Roger Ebert seems to think that Peter Weir trimmed his film to further add to the mystery, although he admits that the memory of his original viewing is fuzzy.

So, thoughts on the meaning? Is it about sexual repression? Colonialism? The passage from childhood to adulthood? Cruelty? All of these? None of these?

--Diane

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You might want to look at the discussion from the previous incarnation of the board.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is very typical of Peter Weir who often puts people in a foreign environment (a literal environment in this film). In a way, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World fits this, and I keep hoping that he's not going flop on the period piece / adventure aspects, although I'm beginning to have my doubts from the little I've read.

I haven't seen the Director's Cut, but it seemed to me that it didn't need much additional mystery. One of the strengths of the film is that it is so mysterious.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Ibid...


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Oops, should have checked the archives first. Thanks, Darrel, for that link. It's an interesting tease, since that thread mentions a previous discussion, but doesn't link to it. I find the archives a little baffling, so any links to other threads would be appreciated.

I have a feeling I'll have to revisit the film again very soon.

Unforgettable line from the movie: Everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and place.

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Any fans of the film here?

I'm a big fan of Weir, though it's been a long time since I saw PICNIC. Theres a nice Weir article at the Directors Guild page;

http://www.dga.org/news/v27_1/indie_peterweir.php3 - with a good bit at the end specifically on his spirituality.

So, thoughts on the meaning? Is it about sexual repression? Colonialism? The passage from childhood to adulthood? Cruelty? All of these? None of these?

This summer I was doing some research on THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY, which is one of my all-time favourites, and I came up with this fascinating response from Weir on these questions;

INTERVIEWER:

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Thank you, Ron, for posting all this great info. It's so interesting that Weir downplays the emphasis on sexual repression, which still seems to be an idea of primary interest to critics discussing the film (at least in the few reviews I've had a chance to read). After one viewing, I'm like Weir

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AHA!!

I found the other Picnic at Hanging Rock thread here.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Woo hoo! Thanks for digging up that thread. Some thoughts:

Anything can be construed as sexual in nature. Anything at all, thanks to Freudian analysis.

This is a gripe that I have, too. It's all too easy to point the finger to sexual repression. Ebert's review seemed almost predictable, but I have to admit, he has his points, even though the whole story cannot be easily explained away by that one aspect.

I think Ebert's point is not just that the story has elements of sexual tension, but that it is a direct criticism of Victorian notions of sexuality set against the mysterious natural spirituality of the Australian outback. Here you have rigid and "proper" notions of what is acceptable, but the human spirit continually strains against these boundaries, forcing us to become frustrated and unfulfilled people (the principle). But here they are in a wild and dangerous land that mocks such artificial notions.

I'm not yet convinced that these proper notions are *centered* around sexuality. (But I'm willing to accept that point if I find that Victorian society was defined overwhelmingly by its view of sexuality.)

I studied the Victorians quite a bit in college, and yes, much of society (and especially its view of women) centered around sexuality. Specifically, Victorian society was a duel one: Prostitution was rampant, but women were deemed to be angelic creatures (middle- and upper-class ones, anyway). The love of a good woman was all it took to redeem a man. A man could be excused for visiting prostitutes, but a lady's reputation must remain spotless. Men have desires that cannot be denied. A proper lady has no such desires; she only endures sex for the purpose of having a family. Etc., etc.

For anyone who hasn't seen the film, SPOILERS are ahead.

One scene in the film that was so striking to me was the scene where Irma returned to visit her schoolmates after her recovery. She was leaving the school, going home with her parents, and the contrast between her and the other girls was startling. She's dressed as quite the grown-up: hair up, wearing bright scarlet, looking years older than her schoolmates in their ringlets and white frocks. Within literature, bright red is a sign of a sexual woman or a fallen woman

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I've had this film on my mind today; I'd been having a discussion about Peter Weir, a filmmaker I very much respect, with a friend. Our discussion started with PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK and ended up moving on to THE LAST WAVE. The pair of them, for me at least, represent the peak of Weir's work as a filmmaker, not that he hasn't had some strong outings since. Sadly, I note that neither of the "archive" links work. Would it be possible for someone more savvy than I to locate those early discussions?

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I saw this film for the first time just the other night and was transfixed.

I will second Ryan's plea to restore the past link. It a relief to read through just the little bit of talk on here discussing the film's ideas (namely, repression) rather than the story's solutions. ‘Cause I’ve been gnawing away at trying to solve the mystery for the last few nights and have come to the conclusion that there ain’t nothing to find but loose ends.


I'm not drinking alone. I'm drinking with the Lord.

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You might want to look at the discussion from the previous incarnation of the board.

I found the other Picnic at Hanging Rock thread here.

I've updated the links (but only in this post; I can't edit other people's posts).


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Unfortunately, those links don't seem to work for me. I wish we had the foresight to store old versions of the board more effectively with each transition.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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The links aren't working for me, either.

‘Cause I’ve been gnawing away at trying to solve the mystery for the last few nights and have come to the conclusion that there ain’t nothing to find but loose ends.

Well, the book--to which the film is pretty faithful--does have a "solution" of sorts, but the publisher convinced the author to cut it. It was later published separately.

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Unfortunately, those links don't seem to work for me. I wish we had the foresight to store old versions of the board more effectively with each transition.

The links aren't working for me, either.

Really? Did you wait for the pages to finish loading? I just tried one of them again and it worked fine after a few seconds.

In any case, I got those update links by entering the original links into web.archive.org, so you might be able to find them that way, too.

(Ironically, M. Leary, one of those links actually seems to take us to a Novogate page that was archived here on this site when it was known as Promontory Film. I don't know if the Novogate archives were preserved when Promontory became A&F, or when A&F switched owners.)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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‘Cause I’ve been gnawing away at trying to solve the mystery for the last few nights and have come to the conclusion that there ain’t nothing to find but loose ends.

Well, the book--to which the film is pretty faithful--does have a "solution" of sorts, but the publisher convinced the author to cut it. It was later published separately.

Can't say how the book would be affected had that been included, but I like the movie retaining all the clues and omitting the explanation. In hindsight, there's really not any other place for it to go. Something extradimensional is all but required to make sense of the mystery, as far as I can see. If there are theories as to how it can be explained otherwise, I'd love to hear them.

I'm inclined to say PAHR is one of the top 10 best suspense film's I've seen. That score during the rock ascent scenes is really something with a good Dolby Digital mix and a subwoofer. Pins y'to yer seat, it does.


I'm not drinking alone. I'm drinking with the Lord.

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Just wondering, has anyone else had any luck with those links yet? If not, I could try copying-and-pasting, or screen-capturing, or something.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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No luck.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Ryan, I have had a lot of trouble getting people to like that film over the years. I share your appreciation for it, as it is one of the finest apocalyptic films I can think of, especially as it is so organically connected to social divisions in Australia that in The Last Wave express themselves as spiritual divisions. Just thinking as someone that watches cinema with Christian thought patterns in mind, I think The Last Wave is very Pauline in the way it denies the idea that there is a divide between this world and a world of significant (and signifying?), transcendent forces guiding history.

I just spent some time in Sydney with a couple that has spent a lot of time working with Aboriginal youth. Conversations with them (which even specifically referenced Weir's cinema) confirmed a lot of suspicions about what The Last Wave is expressing.

Edited by M. Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Ryan, I have had a lot of trouble getting people to like that film over the years.

I haven't introduced many people to it. Truth be told, I only stumbled across it not too long ago thanks to a friendly recommendation. But when I did see it, I quickly fell in love.

I share your appreciation for it, as it is one of the finest apocalyptic films I can think of, especially as it is so organically connected to social divisions in Australia that in The Last Wave express themselves as spiritual divisions. Just thinking as someone that watches cinema with Christian thought patterns in mind, I think The Last Wave is very Pauline in the way it denies the idea that there is a divide between this world and a world of significant (and signifying?), transcendent forces guiding history.

Yes and yes.

Perhaps it is time to begin a thread for THE LAST WAVE.

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The first (or at least earlier) thread from the old board:

moquist / 03-14-03 07:40 AM:

I've copied the current
Picnic
conversation from the "Recent Viewings" thread so nobody has to flip between threads:

: moquist wrote

: I enjoyed the film quite a bit; the tension it built reminded me of

: Rosemary's Baby, because there wasn't anything gory or shocking.

: The actors and actresses gave the viewer emotional cues, and those

: were enough. I finished the film and began reading Ebert's review,

: but I stopped halfway through it because he was analyzing it too

: well; I want to spend more time on my own, first. One thing puzzles

: me, though.

: SPOILER-ish

: He seemed quite convinced that the film is all about a "frenzy of

: repressed sexuality". I can see how sexuality plays a part, but I am

: apparently far too ignorant of the subtlties of narrative sexual

: tension. (The same thing happened when I finished reading Dracula.

: I read some articles, and apparently everybody else managed to

: realize that sexuality was a central theme. I totally did not get that.)

: So I'm planning to do some reading on Victorian views of sex, to

: flesh out the vague understanding I have of it now.

: SPOILER (for
Dead Poets Society
also)

: I predicted to myself as soon as we met her that Sarah was going to

: kill herself. Her character felt right off like Neil in Dead Poet's

: Society; we were even in a one-sex-only boarding school again (in a

: back-to-the-future sort of way).

: : moquist wrote:

: : I enjoyed the film quite a bit; the tension it built reminded me of

: : Rosemary's Baby, because there wasn't anything gory or shocking.

: Doug Cummings wrote:

: Very much so. I've got a fondness for psychological thrillers sans

: violence, and "Picnic" has few equals. It's an extremely haunting and

: artful mood piece.

: : He seemed quite convinced that the film is all about a "frenzy of

: : repressed sexuality".

: It's a very prevalent interpretation, but it's definitely only one

: interpretation. It's partly an interpretation bandwagon, but I think a

: lot of people see a film about teenage girls in white dresses running

: around in the wilderness and form immediate associations.

: Interesting comparison with "Dead Poets." Another recent film

: which earned a lot of comparisons was Sofia Coppola's "The Virgin

: Suicides."

I was already interested in seeing it, so I rented
The Virgin Suicides
last night. I think the films are fundamentally similar because they evoke moods about repression. Ebert quotes Weir in his review:

"We worked very hard," Weir told an interviewer for Sight & Sound, "at creating an hallucinatory, mesmeric rhythm, so that you lost awareness of facts, you stopped adding things up, and got into this enclosed atmosphere. I did everything in my power to hypnotize the audience away from the possibility of solutions."

The Virgin Suicides doesn't so much entice us away from an answer as the narrator mentions at least a couple times (beginning and end of the film) that nobody really understood the Lisbon girls. But even so, it spends its energy recalling, relating, and attempting to share the narrator's experience of fascination with the Lisbon girls. For both films, the mysteries remain unsolved because the camera is limited to the knowledge of one particular character (or set of characters) for any given part of the story. In that way, the mood of each film is more easily shared by the audience because we can relate more or less directly to one or more of the characters; it's a mood/knowledge POV [mostly] without any literal POV shots.

I'm not convinced that a "frenzy of repressed sexuality" is the primary theme underlying either of these films. Sexuality obviously plays a part in both. I'm inclined to think that Picnic is more generally about the tension between tamed-society and the untamed-extrasocial. Or, put another way, the tension between fitting into the mold of the finishing school image and not fitting into that mold. Hanging Rock itself is definitely Other relative to the school; far from the serene and proper atmosphere in which girls become ladies, Hanging Rock is crawling with unimpeded nature. Sure, one aspect of the girls' repression is sexual, but I would say the broader repression is centered more on gender than sexuality specifically. And then, OTOH, we have Sarah's social stigma as a poor orphan girl. She doesn't fit the desired gender mold because her posture is "bad", and she can't fit the mold because she can't afford it any longer. In a way, then, her suicide and the disappearances were similar escapes from (largely) gender-based social demands.

The Virgin Suicides gives us more of a microcosm of a repressive social structure, as Mr. and (mostly) Mrs. Lisbon cage their daughters out of a desperate sort of religiously informed protectionism. Mrs. Lisbon narrates for just a bit at the end, telling us that "there was never any lack of love in our house". Both films place some blame, though neither attributes malicious intent to the guilty. They both seem to say that obsessive repression, even for the best of reasons, is unhealty for the repressed.

Agreement, disagreement? I know you recently watched Picnic for the first time, Darrel. What did you think?

[Edited by moquist]

MLeary / 03-14-03 09:52 AM:

Thanks for posting on this, one of my favorite films. I think we had a thread a long time ago on this film that wasn't very active, but perhaps this one may be more fulfilling.

As far as the sexual tension goes, it is rather difficult
not
to see elements of it in the bare narrative. So much so that other than the disappearance, the various points of sexual tension (the girl and her roommate, the teacher and the students, the boy and the girls he follows, etc...) are the only real points of tension in the storyline. As I watched it a few more times I couldn't help but think that these elements were dropped around the corners of the story like pyschological red herrings just to add some weight to the picture. I think Ebert's point is not just that the story has elements of sexual tension, but that it is a direct criticism of Victorian notions of sexuality set against the mysterious natural spirituality of the Australian outback. Here you have rigid and "proper" notions of what is acceptable, but the human spirit continually strains against these boundaries, forcing us to become frustrated and unfulfilled people (the principle). But here they are in a wild and dangerous land that mocks such artificial notions.

And all
Picnic at Hanging Rock
is, is that it is a snapshot of this interchange. A shocking interchange embodied in the inexplicable disappearance of these girls. Or something along those lines.

I think some of the same tensions are explicit in
Heavenly Creatures
. I am also a big fan of
The Virgin Suicides
, calling it a sort of "microcosm" as you do is an insightful gesture.

Darrel Manson / 03-14-03 09:54 AM:

I shouldn't post this early. (I don't wake up until 10, regardless of what time my body gets out of bed.) So forgive if this rambles or makes no sense.

I watched
Hanging Rock
after reading Johnston's discussion of Weir in
Reel Spiriuality
, so I was already expecting the civilization encountering raw nature theme. And it is certainly valid. But I also was struck at the suppressed sexuality (and in this case, same sex sexuality), which can be read as a subtheme of the overall theme. Without having read Johnston, I'd have probably been struck by the sexual side more so than the nature side.

moquist / 03-14-03 11:32 AM:

: MLeary wrote:

: As far as the sexual tension goes, it is rather difficult not

: to see elements of it in the bare narrative.

As I've mentioned before, I sometimes amaze myself with my obtuseness.

: So much so that other than the disappearance, the various points of

: sexual tension

: (the girl and her roommate,

Ah, I'd forgotten to revisit that one. I remember the sexual tension there, but I think I was focusing so much on the expected suicide that it slipped my mind until you mentioned it again. (Yes, I realize: obtuse.)

: the teacher and the students,

Are you referring to the general sense in which the institution forced the students to comply with Victorian sensibilities, or something more specific? I remember Mrs. Appleyard's comment about taking off their blouses once they got there, but no other specific points come to mind.

: the boy and the girls he follows

Definitely.

The group corset-cinching also stands out to me as connoting strong social/sexuality tension, in both literal and metaphorical senses.

: are the only real points of tension in the storyline.

I disagree here. There is strong tension concerning Sarah's future, and also tension about the future of the school. And, of course, saying "other than the disappearance" chops out the majority of the film.

There were little references here and there that indicate to me that sexuality is an important part of the repression with which the film is concerned; the servant's comment that Irma was missing her corset is especially strange, and strengthens the link between the disappearance and freedom from social concerns. And, of course, the fact that Mrs. McCraw was running around in her underwear indicates some important non-compliance.

: As I watched it a few more times I couldn't help but think that these

: elements were dropped around the corners of the story like

: pyschological red herrings just to add some weight to the picture. I

: think Ebert's point is not just that the story has elements of sexual

: tension, but that it is a direct criticism of Victorian notions of

: sexuality set against the mysterious natural spirituality of the

: Australian outback.

So do you agree or disagree with Ebert? Calling these elements of sexuality "red herrings" makes me think you wouldn't agree with him. I wouldn't call them "red herrings", because I think they're part of the broader sweep of what the film considers "social repression". Of course, I may just be ignorant; perhaps Victorian society was overwhelmingly shaped by its view of sexuality. In that case, then, I would have to agree that Ebert is probably right.

: Here you have rigid and "proper" notions of what is acceptable, but

: the human spirit continually strains against these boundaries,

: forcing us to become frustrated and unfulfilled people (the

: principle). But here they are in a wild and dangerous land that

: mocks such artificial notions.

Yes. I agree, and I think this is a good summary. I'm not yet convinced that these proper notions are *centered* around sexuality. (But I'm willing to accept that point if I find that Victorian society was defined overwhelmingly by its view of sexuality.)

: I think some of the same tensions are explicit in Heavenly Creatures.

I'll keep that title in mind...

: I am also a big fan of The Virgin Suicides, calling it a sort

: of "microcosm" as you do is an insightful gesture.

Thanks. I'm glad Doug mentioned the similarities and I watched it. My wife read the book about a year ago and was interested in seeing the film, but we never got back to it until last night.

[Edited by moquist]

moquist / 03-16-03 12:04 AM:

: moquist wrote:

: I remember Mrs. Appleyard's comment about taking off their

: blouses once they got there

Ahem, "blouses" should be "gloves" there. Heh; taking off their blouses certainly wouldn't be Victorian repression any longer...

We just had our screening and discussion tonight, and somebody brought up Miss McCraw's discussion of the volcano during the drive to the picnic. She thought that Miss McCraw was expressing repressed sexuality in her description of the "viscous", "erupting" "mountain". Viewing the mysterious setting of the girls' disappearance a phallic symbol certainly adds strength to the idea that they were escaping from sexual repression.

Overall, our discussion here bent me to conclude that the film is primarily concerned with the sexual aspects of Victorian society.

Doug Cummings / 03-16-03 12:16 AM:

moquist wrote:

We just had our screening and discussion tonight, and somebody brought up Miss McCraw's discussion of the volcano during the drive to the picnic. She thought that Miss McCraw was expressing repressed sexuality in her description of the "viscous", "erupting" "mountain". Viewing the mysterious setting of the girls' disappearance a phallic symbol certainly adds strength to the idea that they were escaping from sexual repression.

Yeah, actually this is a pretty common reading. Kudos for catching it!

You might also consider the film in terms of the mysterious and uneasy clash of civilization and nature, which was not only a prevalent theme in several Australian films of the period (most notably Nicolas Roeg's "Walkabout" (1971), another favorite of mine) but also in Weir's subsequent career. Repression in general is a theme he often returns to as well.

MLeary / 03-17-03 12:25 PM:

moquist:

I just picked up PAHR today on the Criterion disc. I will watch it again to assess the other tensions you identify in the film and get back to you on this thread...

MLeary / 03-18-03 10:20 AM:

moquist wrote:

: are the only real points of tension in the storyline.

I disagree here. There is strong tension concerning Sarah's future, and also tension about the future of the school. And, of course, saying "other than the disappearance" chops out the majority of the film.

Wow. The Criterion DVD of this film is very crisp. I have always watched it on VHS so this was a great experience. Now don't get me wrong, I am a fan of character development sans plotline ala
Zerkalo
or maybe
Mother and Son
. This film verges on that, very obtuse character studies that hover around oblique social cues and personal affectations.

And even though there are also many many points of narrative along the way, all of these points of narrative occur as almost afterthoughts. We switch from a few minutes of Michael the boy and his saga to the headmaster to Sara, etc... And all of these brief character studies occur after the event as if we are really seeing how the disappearance has affected everyone else in different ways. But still, even after all of these deep points of storyline, for some reason the film still reads like a mood piece. I think this is precisely why I find the film so watchable, it has all of these disparate filmic elements existing in a delicate tension and bound together by the haunting musical score.

SPOILER

The whole film seems to rush headlong to the last scene where the gardener rushes into the headmaster's office to report Sara's death and she is sitting there all in black and slowly but sharply turns her head right towards the camera. There is such a balance at that moment between mood and storyline. And right there is a pungent criticism of the "Victorian" social order embodied in the voiceover that reports her suicide the next day.

END SPOILERS

However, after thinking it through again I don't think the sexual tension aspect is as prominent as some make it out to be. In many reviews I have read, this is the only thing they say. Sure there are elements, beautifully positioned trace elements, of sexual tension between the girls and this tension plays a deep role in the story between Sara and her lost lover and perhaps even in the disappearance itself. Yet, this is not the cornerstone of the film. If anything, the cornerstone is the disappearance itself and everything else that occurs in the film leads to or hovers around the event. If you watch the trailer, this is what Weir focuses on. Not the sexual tensions as much as the disappearance itself. It seems that this is the lense he wants us to read this script through.

And even all the other tensions you mention, the school, Michael, etc... They all seem to play a secondary role to the effort Weir puts into letting us see how this event actually affects everyone. So these tensions are there, and if they weren't we would have a very flat storyline that would verge on absurdity. So to me, some of them seem to be there to pad out the script. There is nothing wrong with that because they work very well, I am a big fan of the film itself and I don't agree with Ebert's assessment in toto.

I haven't read the book though, so I wonder how well they match up together.

Doug Cummings / 03-18-03 11:14 AM:

MLeary wrote:

Wow. The Criterion DVD of this film is very crisp. I have always watched it on VHS so this was a great experience.

I've always appreciated that the Director's Cut of this film is shorter than the original theatrical release.
:)

The Criterion print also benefits from a full restoration.

moquist / 03-18-03 11:21 AM:

MLeary wrote:

: SPOILER

: The whole film seems to rush headlong to the last scene where the

: gardener rushes into the headmaster's office to report Sara's death

: and she is sitting there all in black and slowly but sharply turns her

: head right towards the camera.

That shot got audible reactions when we watched it; it's quite chilling.

: embodied in the voiceover that reports her suicide the next day.

Maybe we're just playing hard-to-convince, but we weren't
positive
that she did commit suicide. I think the film intentionally doesn't tell us one way or the other. It's my personal inclincation to believe that she was despairing of life and perhaps teetering on the edge of sanity, but that she went to the Rock to look for the lost girls, because their disappearance led to the crumbling of her world. And in her state of despair, it would be no surprise that she fell. BUT - that is just my opinionated guess.

END SPOILERS

: However, after thinking it through again I don't think the sexual

: tension aspect is as prominent as some make it out to be.

On the contrary, if we're correct to read Miss McCraw's monologue as an indication that the Rock embodies some sort of raw sexuality, then the disappearance, which you place at the center of the film, is itself centered on some communal escape TO sexuality and FROM Victorian sensibilities.

: In many reviews I have read, this is the only thing they say. Sure

: there are elements, beautifully positioned trace elements, of sexual

: tension between the girls and this tension plays a deep role in the

: story between Sara and her lost lover and perhaps even in the

: disappearance itself. Yet, this is not the cornerstone of the film.

That was my prior view, but if the volcano = phallus/orgasm, then I think we have sufficient reason to say that sexual tension does underlie everything. That isn't to downplay the rest, of course. The other tensions are still there and important, but it seems the film *does* thrust its portrayal toward a certain critique.

: If you watch the trailer, this is what Weir focuses on.

Sorry, but that won't convince me of anything.
:)
What director really tries to make an artistic statement with the trailer? I thought that trailers existed for producers to get butts in the theater...

: So to me, some of them seem to be there to pad out the script.

: There is nothing wrong with that because they work very well

I agree. The film seems primarily to be about its mood, and the mood is informed by a subtle critique of a socio-moral system that bottles the human spirit, and especially human sexuality.

: I haven't read the book though, so I wonder how well they match up

: together.

My copy came in the mail yesterday, so I'll see how far I get in reading it.

MLeary / 03-18-03 11:45 AM:

:: On the contrary, if we're correct to read Miss McCraw's monologue as an indication that the Rock embodies some sort of raw sexuality, then the disappearance, which you place at the center of the film, is itself centered on some communal escape TO sexuality and FROM Victorian sensibilities.

In all respect, there is a lot to be said for all of those connections, even the phallic notions of the rock itself. But I still am hesitant to buy it. Anything can be construed as sexual in nature. Anything at all, thanks to Freudian analysis. But I recently read an interview with Cronenberg in which he mentions a title of a book that convinced him of the vapid nature of Freudian analysis, which I am quite interested in reading.

I can't wait to hear what you glean from the book. If the book smacks of sexual tension, then I will submit to your understanding of the film!

:: Sorry, but that won't convince me of anything.
:)
What director really tries to make an artistic statement with the trailer? I thought that trailers existed for producers to get butts in the theater...

Sorry, I didn't mean that to a convincing argument, I just found it interesting. And I would think that if the trailer is meant solely to get people in the theater it would have these girls all over each other. And on the box it would say: "A steamy sexy thriller!!" and on the back it would

say something like "A doomed love triangle between three school girls! Caught between a rock and a hard place: Thier love and thier oppresive head-mistress!"

moquist / 03-18-03 01:00 PM:

: MLeary wrote:

: In all respect, there is a lot to be said for all of those connections,

: even the phallic notions of the rock itself. But I still am hesitant to

: buy it. Anything can be construed as sexual in nature. Anything at

: all, thanks to Freudian analysis. But I recently read an interview

: with Cronenberg in which he mentions a title of a book that

: convinced him of the vapid nature of Freudian analysis, which I am

: quite interested in reading.

: I can't wait to hear what you glean from the book. If the book

: smacks of sexual tension, then I will submit to your understanding

: of the film!

Ha! Our positions have been quite neatly reversed. Keep in mind that I came to this understanding of the film only through hearing and accepting the observations of OTHER PEOPLE, and nobody else will be there to convince me of the sexuality that undoubtedly permeates every word of the book...
;)

: Sorry, I didn't mean that to a convincing argument, I just found it

: interesting. And I would think that if the trailer is meant solely to

: get people in the theater it would have these girls all over each

: other. And on the box it would say: "A steamy sexy thriller!!" and on

: the back it would say something like "A doomed love triangle

: between three school girls! Caught between a rock and a hard place:

: Thier love and thier oppresive head-mistress!"

:D
Or, "An erotic treat, just like Kieslowski's White!"


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The second (or at least later) thread from the old board:

Alvy / 06-21-03 06:09 AM:

Just saw
Picnic at Hanging Rock
(Peter Weir, 1975) for the first time. Anyone interested in sharing their thoughts on the film?

Jeffrey Overstreet / 06-21-03 08:36 AM:

When I saw this, I realized that "Dead Poet's" is almost a sequel.

It's about so many things... but mainy seems to be about the difference between approaching life with fear and approaching it with awe and courage. This has implications about the confining and controlling aspects of civilisation versus the freedom and seeming-chaos of nature, about sexual insecurity and sexual freedom, about the emptiness of mere knowledge and the riches of childlike faith...

This is one of my favorite films, and one of Weir's very best. I love that Weir refuses to solve the mystery for us. Without that the film wouldn't work or have the haunting quality that it does.

Darrel Manson / 06-21-03 09:21 AM:

I'm fond of Weir. One of his common devices is placing people out of their element. (I really like how he does it doubly in
Witness
.) In
Picnic
, obviously it is taking refinement into the wilderness -- or dealing with the rawness of nature.

FWIW, Weir's newest,
is due out in Novemeber. I'm looking forward to it (even if it is Russell Crowe).

Alvy / 06-21-03 10:18 AM:

Darrel Manson wrote:

I'm fond of Weir. One of his common devices is placing people out of their element. (I really like how he does it doubly in
Witness
.) In
Picnic
, obviously it is taking refinement into the wilderness -- or dealing with the rawness of nature.

Yes, the contrast was especially evident in Picnic, particularly in the early scenes as they are leaving the school and approaching the rock.

And yet the girls, in their ethereal white dresses, were quite in their element out in the wilderness (the striking visual parallel with the swans reinforces this). I suppose that ties in with the theme of "childlike faith" Jeffrey mentioned.

Alvy / 06-21-03 10:19 AM:

There is another question the film raised, only arbitrarily related to the film itself, however, which I'll bring up on a separate thread.

Andrew / 06-21-03 12:42 PM:

I didn't know Peter Weir was helming
Master and Commander
. For those who aren't aware, this film is based on a part of the 20-book Aubrey/Maturin series, set in the Napoleonic era and depicting the adventures and relationships of a British sea captain and his ship's Irish surgeon/intelligence agent. The books, by the late Patrick O'Brian, were terrific; I hope Weir does them justice.

Darrel Manson / 06-21-03 06:03 PM:

Andrew wrote:

I didn't know Peter Weir was helming
Master and Commander
.

Let me issue the offical groan.

John Adair / 06-21-03 09:38 PM:

I recently saw this for the first time as well, and was struck with two things that I can sort of articulate at this point. I am filled with a myriad of others that I haven't yet been able to get down on paper.

One was the overwhelming sense of mystery associated with these events, and the way Weir presents it only serves to enhance this. It reminds me to consider the mystery of our own world, a world that I too often feel I have figured out.

***possible spoilers***

The other was the strong sense of connection to Dead Poets Society. This especially struck me near the end when Sara (I think that's the right name) has left her room for some as yet unexplained reason, and there is an overhead shot of her empty bed. The music, the setting, and the overall feel of that moment reminded me of the final scenes of Poets, when Neil is at home, having just argued with his parents.

I am also aware that this movie is about so much more. Clearly there is a richness to it that I have yet to really comprehend, although I'm sure that repeated viewings will help with that. I look forward to seeing it again soon.

Andrew / 06-22-03 05:45 AM:

Thanks, Darrel -- does this mean I have to walk the plank?

MLeary / 06-23-03 11:22 AM:

We had a good thread on this a while back. It may be worth digging up.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Confirmation that Peter has some kind of access to the internet that the rest of us don't.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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