by Leonora Rexhi
The Australian movie, ”Picnic at Hanging Rock”, is based on the novel under the same name, which was written by Joan Lindsay. The film was released in 1975.
1900, Appleyard College, Victoria, Australia. On Valentine’s Day, the students from the girls’ boarding school set off with their teachers for an excursion at Hanging Rock. Instead of staying in the group like the rest of the students, four girls decide to go to the top of Hanging Rock and begin to climb the branching path. Once there, they lie down in the sun and suddenly walk behind a rock as if in a trance. One of the students, Edith, is looking for the three girls. Since they do not respond to any calls and seem to have disappeared without a trace, Edith runs back to the group in tears and reports what has happened. There, she also finds out that a teacher has disappeared with them. She remembers with difficulty, but what she does know is that all of them were heading towards the top of Hanging Rock.
I did not know what to expect at first. But quickly the film captivated me, even if I must admit that I had a hard time understanding everything correctly at times. This was the first Australian movie I have seen, so it was a bit tricky to completely understand the Australian English right away.
I particularly liked the structure of the film, the costumes, the locations and also the music. The typical Australian setting, the quietness in some scenes and the costumes of the girls, reminiscent of the Victorian era, impressed me greatly.
The movie is classified in the horror and mystery genre, whereas I personally consider the mystery genre to be more appropriate. I did not perceive the movie as a horror movie, even though some parts, like the images of the girls with the wounds on their heads and the blood on their bodies and clothes, were a bit ”brutal”. The mysteriousness runs through the whole movie from the beginning. What I particularly liked is that even at the end (spoiler!) the mystery of Hanging Rock could not be solved, and the characters remained missing.
Nevertheless, I find that the movie did drag on a bit towards the end. For my taste, some scenes perhaps could have been shortened a bit, because in thrilling scenes often followed long-winded passages, which took the tension away.
After watching the movie, I searched a bit on the internet and found out that it has often been discussed whether the movie is based on a true story. There are many who are unsure, and especially Joan Lindsay herself kept silent about it during her lifetime and also hinted at this in the novel in the preface that she wants to leave this decision to the readers (Köster n.p.). Moreover, there are said to be no reports of missing girls at Hanging Rock in Australian police files, and there is even some speculation about whether it may have been aliens who made the girls disappear.
In addition, I found out that the topic of colonization is addressed in the movie. This becomes clear, for example, in the scene where the girls set off for Hanging Rock, even though they are told how dangerous this is. This controlled relationship ”to the natural world represents underlying colonialist anxieties about the power of nature”. The author suggests that ”repression is a byproduct if colonialism” (Lindsay). This is made clear in the movie, showing the girls who have to wear hats, gloves, long dresses, and corsets even in the blazing sun. They are controlled by their teachers/principals non-stop in what they do. It is important to mention here that the way the girls are treated in the film is not at all comparable to what the Aboriginal Australians had to experience. The author nevertheless uses this to highlight that ”colonialism is a brutal and hungry force which requires not just the oppression of those it supplants, but the repression of those it claims to benefit, in order to function” (Lindsay n.p.).
All in all, ”Picnic at Hanging Rock” is a movie worth watching. It is very multi-faceted, and what I found particularly good is that it can be viewed for free on Youtube at any time. In addition, you can read the book about it and if you cannot get enough of Picnic at Hanging Rock also watch the series that was released in 2018!
- Köster, T. (2017, 14. Februar). Stichtag – 14. Februar 1987: Ende von „Picknick am Valentinstag“ veröffentlicht. Stichtag – WDR. https://www1.wdr.de/stichtag/stichtag-picknick-valentinstag-100.html
- Lindsay, J. (o. D.). Nature, Repression, and Colonialism Theme in Picnic at Hanging Rock. LitCharts. https://www.litcharts.com/lit/picnic-at-hanging-rock/themes/nature-repression-and-colonialism