Perhaps the title is a bit of an exaggeration, but this is how I felt while watching it: tired and bored out of my mind. I thought Picnic at Hanging Rock has potential for mystery.
If the movie does not tell you something, you probably will know the director after I mention The Truman Show or Dead Poets Society. That’s right! It is another Peter Weir film.
I will try to be as objective as possible, but I have too many negative feelings about this movie. Beware, some things may seem a bit of an exaggeration or too critical.
Without further ado, let’s see what the deal is with Picnic at Hanging Rock.
What is so good about this movie?
#1st thing: the visuals
One thing that I admire the most is the visuals, especially the eerie dreamy scenes in nature. It feels as if you are there with the characters and catch a glimpse of the scenery. I compared pictures with the actual location, and I must say: a big shoutout for transforming such a regular place into a place of fantasy and imagination!
#2nd thing: the historic context
I’m not a fan of the Victorian Era (too much melodrama for my taste and people were so full of customs and mannerism), but I must admit that the director did justice to the period. The costumes are simply amazing, the places and houses are so full of Victorian details, and there is no truly stereotypic theme, motif or character. It felt as if you went back in time (1900, Australia, to be precise).
#3rd thing: the story
Actually, I find the story quite nice. It’s simple: some girls disappear during a picnic, and people try to find them. Then we see how the community is affected. Will they be back? Will they not? Will people understand what happened?
#4th thing: the music
My favorite part: the music! The pan flute of Gheorghe Zamfir is unmistakable. So soothing. It completed the visuals. It is the reason that I kept watching the movie and why I consider it was fit for the visuals and the atmosphere.
What is not so good about the movie?
I have some mixed feelings about the characters and their acting, the editing, the story mixed with the mythological ideas. They might not be as bad as I considered them to be, but for me, they did not make the cut.
As I said, the characters were good portraits of Victorian figures. But sometimes they were so annoying! Especially when they repeated some lines as if they were telling me: ‘hello, you should be paying attention here!’. It just puts me off when this happens. It is as if you do not have a mystery at all.
Their acting was okay, to be fair. But it felt as if there was something their actions and their voices that did not fit. Maybe they seemed too childish for some mature stuff that they were saying? Or too out of place? I do not know for sure. It was not a major problem, this rarely happens (so it may sound a bit nitpicking).
But surely my greatest problem was the editing. There is a girl Miranda who is one of the protagonists, and she leads the movie (either by being on the screen or consciously recalled). Every time something important happened or one character thought about the group’s disappearance, Miranda appeared. At some point, I was like: ’I get it! She is one of the important ones, do not tell me on every occasion! Honestly, is this movie just about her or not? ‘I did not like at all how Picnic at Hanging Rock is edited with these pictures of her sporadically.
Mythological ideas? Here I am in between. I do not know about Australian mythological and religious ideas, but I got the impression that Hanging Rock is a place with a spiritual symbolism (like a lot of places with rocks in Europe). I also understood that they linked some stuff with it, but I am not a fan of this manner of combing the two.
For me, these mythological ideas put into place felt forced. Not that they were not coherent, but simply too much in the story. It also felt awkward to link the things with one another just to abandon them along the way, and then came back to them.
I would have enjoyed the movie more if they were presented more mysteriously, not so obvious. It would have been better if you could have actually seen how people think, and get more in touch with them. Something between the intention and the result is missing in Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Okay, should I watch it?
Honestly, I’d rather say no. I do not find it unique, nor do I think you’d lose something. Picnic at Hanging Rock is more or less the same situation as Nomadland.
But hey, if you want to have a look, maybe you will find it more interesting than I did. It is short too, so do not worry if you want to check it. It also based on the book with the same name by Joan Lindsay. So maybe you want to read the book, and then compare it with the movie. It is an Australian classic, so what are you losing?