Twenty years after it swept Australia into the international film spotlight, Peter Weir's stunning 1975 masterpiece remains as ineffable as the unanswerable mystery at its core. A Valentine's Day picnic at an ancient volca... more »nic outcropping turns to disaster for the residents of Mrs. Appleyard's school when a few young girls inexplicably vanish on Hanging Rock. A lyrical, meditative film charged with suppressed longings, Picnic at Hanging Rock is at long last available in a pristine widescreen director's cut with a newly-minted Dolby® digital 5.1 channel soundtrack.« less
Darwin H. (movienut) from BLOOMINGTON, MN Reviewed on 2/8/2015...
"On St. Valentine's Day, 1900 a part of schoolgirls set out to picnic at Hanging Rock. What happens to them makes one of the most spellbinding mysteries of our time."
This is the set-up for a beautifully shot mystery/horror tapestry that drags you in and wont let go. Then it ends abruptly when the story seems only 2/3 told and leaves you guessing. It doesnâ€™t really have a conventional endingâ€¦yet almost everyone who falls under itâ€™s spell doesnâ€™t really seem to care. What happened to them?! Was it all just a fantastic dream?
I recently watched this again. Got to see it on the big screen for the first time at a local theater. Still haunting, gorgeous, tragic and still impenetrable by design. In short I loved it...again.
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Mary M. (ceresmary) from COLUMBUS, OH Reviewed on 5/12/2011...
This is going to be pretty specific to the complaints about the editing of PAHR's edition(s) that has everyone up in arms. I spent a great deal of time in the 1980's trying to find this movie once out of theater, talking to film preservation/protections groups in at Penn State as well as in Seattle, and finding out the truth of why you now can only get a badly edited edition of this movie.
I orginally saw this movie in 1979 (dating myself), in a movie theater in Seattle. It only played at repertory cinemas and was hard to find even back then. It was still reel to reel cinema and worth every penny to find it. This movie is a wonderful mix of eerieness, lush photography, incrediable story telling, and sound. The story is not easy; either to follow by book (written by Dame Joan Lindsay, Austrailia), or by movie, and the plot just won't go away once you've seen/read it. It is a shear genius of a piece of literature turned movie. Peter Weir must be given some amazing credit for even tackling this story line, the work he did to make it come alive, and with unknown actors for it to become a cult classic.
Now my story begins. I spent countless hours trying to find out (pre internet) information about this book, about the author and the movie. Back in the early 1980's Vestron Pictures (VHS), bought the rights to the film and book. They went bankrupt, locking this gem away, not letting either the Lindsay estate nor Peter Weir access to the material they had bought. By 1989-91 This little gem of a movie was reduced to two existing copies; one a VHS in Columbus OH (Aardvark Movies) and a reel to reel existing at 7 Gables Movie Theater in Seattle. That's it. 2 copies remained.
Peter Weir and the Lindsay estate were locked in battle to get their property back from a defunct company. The battle for Picnic ended in 1998. Now whether or not WIKI has it right, the scenes edited claim to be because of creative issues (movie too long), I personally think the editing and chop job was because of only two remaining copies of Picnic might have been missing pieces of the film, hense it is gone (sort of like Lost Horizon's attempt to recreate the film).
As it is, we're just lucky he got it back, and the Lindsay estate has sold it's rights again, now to a Broadway show productions..Lord help us!
Final thoughts: it's a beautiful film worth watching. I don't own a copy of this version, (yet). It is worth finding and treasuring, but read the book! If you can find a copy of the lost chapter, "The Secret of Hanging Rock", it will answer so many questions you will have after reading/watching this film.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
As Haunting as They Come
jcs456 | 08/08/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Do films get much stranger or more beautiful than this? To call Peter Weir's masterpiece "moody" and "atmospheric", as Leonard Maltin does in his brief review, is to grossly underemphasize the sui generis, quite visceral impact, the lush, almost swoon-inducing power, of this flagrantly bizarre work of art. It's actually difficult to describe "Picnic at Hanging Rock" in words because there's nothing else remotely like it. I'd say that another Australian film, "Heavenly Creatures" comes closest, but that movie's cumbersome claymation fantasy scenes and decisive conclusion are so far removed from the ethereal, open-ended nature of this film that the comparison falls apart instantly. There's something so unmentionably chilling, even nauseating, in the soft-focus camera-work and the intentionally stilted performances, that I'm not even able to evaluate the technical aspects of this film. It has its own vernacular, its own code, that owes nothing to what has come before. If forced, I'd say this is a story about repression, about humanity-vs.-nature, about our own inability to really grasp the vastness of the universe in which we live. It is certainly much more than the story of three girls and a school teacher who dissapear on a rock formation, as intruiging as that story certainly is. There are ideas at work here, conveyed through camera shots, angles, brief snatches of dialogue and silent pauses that we might not even be able to discuss, because we don't have the words or the courage to discuss them. Those expecting a genteel horror story of some sort or a traditional murder mystery will be confounded by "Picnic at Hanging Rock", for it offers only questions, not answers. It taps into our deepest fears, but without ever resorting to tricks or gore. It creeps up on you and, when it is over, changes your perception of the world for days to come. I find it a terrifying movie, far more unsettling than any slasher pic or ghost tale. Its ambiguity is the key to its success. That ambiguity unnerves us because we like to have everything labelled and identified, plotted out in a rational manner. There is nothing rational about "Picnic at Hanging Rock". It opens a small crack in the abyss and then forces our imaginations to look through that crack."
Weir should have left well enough alone
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 03/05/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Sadly, like George Lucas before him, Peter Weir has replaced one beloved cut of the film that made his name, re-edited it and (so it seems) determined to keep the original version under lock and key. Bad move.
Picnic at Hanging Rock is one of those films that should have been left alone, but unfortunately Peter Weir's considerably shorter director's cut does the film no real favors. The additions are minor - a redundant scene of a reporter photographing the school and a very brief but much better introduction to the scene where Albert (Wolf Creek's John Jarrett) tells Michael (Dominic Guard) his dream about his sister - but the deletions in the last third are fairly substantial and surprisingly damaging - most notably the entire section of Irma thanking Albert for finding her on the Rock, Michael's growing relationship with Irma, the church service, Albert and Michael talking at night, and Mrs Appleyard removing Sarah's belongings. Sadly, while it may make the film even more elliptical as is Weir's wont, it diminishes the film's resonance and your involvement with the already rather sketchy characters, so it's a pity that only the director's cut now exists in a restored version (even the Australian 2-disc DVD only includes the cut scenes as extras).
Unfortunately, a la George Lucas, the original version is almost impossible to find aside from an incredibly poor standards conversion videotape made from a poor print back in the mid-90s before the Australian film industry took film preservation seriously.
The restoration may look and sound better than the film ever has before, but it's a sad trade-off for the much better film Weir originally made. "
A true piece of moviemagic.
David Grant | Lancaster, PA USA | 03/19/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Austrailian director Peter Weir's beautiful, almost poetic, suspense film is truly one of the most unsettling experiences one can have in front of the television set. There are no false scares, no over-the-top madmen, no gory bloodbaths... just a hint of something unworldly... mysterious... dangerous. The film tales the tale of three young students and a teacher who disappear during a school picnic at an old volcanic outcropping known as Hanging Rock. There is no comprehendible explaination for the events. We hear rumors and get a few shaky witness recounts, but nothing solid. The film does not provide us with easy answers (only a few red herrings) and some may feel cheated by the film's conclusion. But those few will have missed the point of the film. It is a mystery, burning with eroticism, sparked with moody atmosphere. Weir gives us information, although we don't know what to trust and what not to believe. It's as if the solution is right on the tips of our tongues, but we can't quite spit it out. The entire setting of 'Picnic At Hanging Rock' is breathtaking but it is the rock structure itself that captures one's attention. Lined with crevaces and caves, it seems to breathe and stare. When the three young girls make their way towards their fate, it seems as if they are being called towards it, answering silently to it's wishes. The mere sight of it in the distance of the frame is bone-chilling. For however open-ended the film might be, it is ultimately satisfying. The sheer dread envoked over the 107 minutes of running time is sharp and clear. We feel as if we've just been told the most terrifying story of our lives. One that we don't know whether to believe or disbelieve. But either way, we can't deny it's power. Hats off to Criterion for bringing this wonderful and haunting film to DVD."
Eeery, excellent score. But DVD is director's cut
William | Australia | 08/22/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Love it, or hate it, PAHR is one of Peter Weir's absolute classics. The story of a private school for ladies in the early 1900's in Victoria, Australia. On an excursion one day, several of the girls go missing, and the mystery of hanging rock sets in ... It contains a beautiful, yet haunting soundtrack which helps add the right atmosphere.
Sure, its boring in parts, but it's Australian cinema at its finest. Stellar performances from Helen Morse and Rachel Roberts, among others.
The problem I have, is that there is no DVD release which contains the entire film. All releases are the short director's cut. Let's examine them:
Region 1 (US) - The very first DVD release of the film by the distributor Criterion way back in 1998. It's the director's cut, and while in widescreen, is not 16:9 enhanced.
Region 2 (UK) - A more affordable DVD which was released in 2003 by Pathe. It's a bare bones release (not even a trailer), but it does contain a 16:9 widescreen transfer. Well done, just a pity that it is once again the Director's cut.
Region 4 (AUSTRALIA) - Released in August 2004 by UV Channel, this is a 2-Disc very special edition DVD with more extras than you can imagine. However, it's once again the Director's cut and is not 16:9 enhanced (as you have guessed, a big no-no in the DVD world of today).
So as you can see, the uncut film, which many of us are familiar with, remains unavailable on DVD anywhere in the English speaking world (that I know of). Even Australia can't get it right when it comes to releasing this DVD properly. What chance is there of ever getting the full version then?"