The Australian film industry had been churning out ‘ocker comedies’ for years – those sort of stereotypical macho and often just downright crude comedies with boorish behaviour best represented by 1972’s The Adventures of Barry McKenzie a low budget film scripted by Barry Humphries. But Picnic at Hanging Rock would change all that on its release in 1975
Based on the novel by Joan Lindsay the film was set on Saturday, 14 February 1900, when a party of schoolgirls from Appleyard College took a trip to Hanging Rock near Mt. Macedon in Victoria. During that idyllic sun-drenched afternoon some of the girls left the rest of the group to go exploring. The higher they climbed the more exhausted they became, finally they stopped to rest and fell asleep…
When they awoke, as though still in a dream the girls silently ventured further through a passage in the imposing rock face. Some of them were never seen again.
Essentially a mystery it would receive international critical acclaim with its true story. Or was it? Author Joan Lindsay never would say giving deliberately obtuse replies whenever asked with the nearest direct answer being, ‘Some of it is’. Either way as directed by Peter Weir the film is something of an enigma with an almost ethereal quality to it with an ambiguous ending that would divide some audiences. Heading up the cast was Rachel Roberts as the school matron who was a very last minute bit of casting after Vivien Merchant dropped out just weeks before shooting was to commence and when Roberts did begin she intimidated the young girls in the cast most of which had not acted before. Playing the school girls was an array of fledgling actresses that included Anne Louise Lambert. Vivien Gary & Jane Vallis and all gave great performances. The film would win a BAFTA for its cinematography and earn nominations for its costume design and sound.
But its reputation redirected the Australian film industry away from the rut it had got itself into with the low budget comedies that were being churned out and for director Weir who had already caught the industry’s attention with his 1975 film ‘The Cars that ate Paris’ and would helm a string of acclaimed films including Gallipoli that introduced a young actor called Mel Gibson who had already made an impact with Mad Max before both would go to Hollywood where Weir would earn six Oscar nominations as director before being presented with an honorary Oscar in 2023 having all but retired after his 2010 film The Way Back.
Picnic at Hanging Rock is now released as a new Limited Edition 4K UHD/Blu-ray release alongside Standard Editions on 4K UHD and Blu-ray after a 4K scan and restoration from the original camera negative, which was supervised and approved by Peter Weir himself alongside director of photography Russell Boyd. It comes in a rigid slipcase with new artwork by Thinh Dinh as a four-disc set featuring two UHDs and two Blu-rays, including restorations of the Director’s Cut and original Theatrical Cut.
This is another stunning release from Second Sight who, with their impressive array of re-releases, are now surely the guardians of many of cinemas greatest films and as is their wont there’s an immense number of excellent bonus features including brand new interviews, audio commentaries and the feature-length documentary ‘A Dream Within a Dream’ that is especially good pulling together both archive and new interviews from crew and cast. Those bonus features include:
- Includes restorations of the Director’s Cut and original Theatrical Cut
- Audio commentary by film academics Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson
- A Lovely Day for a Picnic: a new interview with actor Karen Robson
- Finding the Light: a new interview with director of photography Russell Boyd
- Crashing Through Boundaries: a new interview with camera operator John Seale
- Something Beyond Explanation: Thomas Caldwell on Picnic at Hanging Rock
- A Dream Within a Dream feature length documentary
- An interview with Joan Lindsay
- Recollection: Hanging Rock 1900
- Original long trailer
Limited Edition Contents
- Rigid slipcase with new artwork by Thinh Dinh
- Soft cover book with new essays by Daniel Bird, Kat Ellinger and Justine Smith, archive essay by Rebecca Harkins-Cross, Costume Gallery, feature on the original marketing of the film and the new restoration
- The original novel with exclusive cover by Thinh Dinh
- Six collectors’ art cards
Mesmerising and almost hypnotically photographed Picnic at Hanging Rock remains a milestone in Australia cinema and this release from Second Sight does it deserved justice.
related feature: George Somner and cast at the UK premiere of ‘Kindling’
related feature : Levi Miller interviewed about his film, ‘Streamline’
Here’s the Picnic at Hanging Rock trailer…..
Picnic at Hanging Rock is released on 1st May 2023