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The Dreamy Nightmare of ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’

"The new 'Hanging Rock' is a more Gothic work of horror, revealing the rot that permeates the blooms of the Victorian bouquet."

“In the ghostly scheme of Picnic at Hanging Rock, students of Appleyard College for Young Ladies descend from their Australian boarding school, on Valentine’s Day, 1900, embarking on a day trip for a luncheon on the grass,” explains Troy Patterson. “Three high-spirited students and one teacher stray from the group and vanish. One survivor turns up, many days later, with a hole in her memory and a scar on her soul. The others seem to have slipped through a crevice in space-time.” To read the full article, click here.

“For his 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock,” recounts Sophie Gilbert , “the Australian director Peter Weir wanted an Impressionistic look and feel, a gauzy, painterly aesthetic. He and his cinematographer, Russell Boyd, finally landed on a solution: They bought a variety of wedding veils from a bridal store, using the different fabrics and textures to create scenes in which the characters seemed to glow from within.” To read the full article, click here.

“The brilliance of the story—in Joan Lindsay’s 1967 novel, in Peter Weir’s 1975 film version, and in the six-episode adaptation now arriving on Amazon Prime—is its reticence in keeping the nature of the mystery as enigmatic as its meaning,” Patterson continues. “Maybe the girls were raptured from the very-late-Victorian era into a dimension free of its strictures, and maybe their erasure was the paranormal signal of their oppression. Either way, they are figures in a genteel gothic fiction, spectral under shimmering sunlight.”

Read more: Why People Freak Out Over Picnic at Hanging Rock

“If Weir’s film was a romantic, surreal, shimmering mystery—Twin Peaks by way of John Keats—the new Hanging Rock is a more Gothic work of horror, revealing the rot that permeates the blooms of the Victorian bouquet,” Gilbert continues “But there are still scenes that are achingly beautiful. In one, the girls climb Hanging Rock in dresses so white that they glow against the green leaves and the gray stone. In a later episode, they seal a promise to each other by tearing their hands on rose thorns, so that their blood commingles with the petals, earthy and ethereal.” To read the full article, click here.

“Besides [David] Lynch, the series owes quite a bit to Jane Campion, who shares Lynch’s affinity for ominous forests that can seem either enchanted or cursed, and Sofia Coppola, who counts the original Picnic at Hanging Rock, with its gauzy photography and European art cinema accents, as a major influence,” explains Matt Zoller Seitz.

“It’s a sensory experience first and foremost, forever trying to depict events in the most clever, sensuous, or surprising way possible, even when a simpler approach would’ve gotten the narrative point across.”

“As overseen by cinematographer Garry Phillips, the camera tilts to convey disorientation and peers through windows and doors, from the far sides of rooms, and from high overhead. Many of the shots are rigidly symmetrical, arranging the young women in rows so that they look like frilly-costumed figurines in a diorama.” Zoller Seitz continues.

“Everything about Picnic at Hanging Rock mesmerizes the eye and mind, compelling you to keep watching.” says Jess Joho. “The sets, costumes, performances, and direction radiate a dazzling brilliance, but its resonance goes far beyond just visual splendor. The series captivates on a cerebral level, too, asking eternally unanswerable questions about identity, womanhood, freedom, trauma, and society.”