After finishing my book review of Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, I knew that I had to watch the 1975 movie of the same name. I love these book versus movie comparisons, especially when the movie remains so true to the original text.
If I had to pick one word to describe the movie, I’d go with ‘dreamy’. The movie seems to move like a dream, slowly and atmospherically. There’s a dreamlike quality to every frame, from the way the students receive their Valentines to the way they nap in the shadow of Hanging Rock. Sometimes, it’s beautiful. At others, it’s a nightmare. The hauntingly beautiful flute music in the soundtrack echos this. The ethereal theme makes the movie magical.
I give a lot of credit to Peter Weir for remaining so true to the original story. He paid close attention to the details of the novel, making sure that even the costumes echoed what had been presented in the book. The actors looked exactly how I’d pictured the characters in the novel. The school setting also worked well.
The theme in Hanging Rock is definitely one of humans versus nature, in particular the passage of time. It shows that time (and sticking to a schedule) is a human invention, and nature holds to timelessness. Time is frequently mentioned in the novel, and in the movie there is a lot of attention on clocks and watches. In the presence of Hanging Rock, however, time becomes meaningless and everyone’s watch stops.
There’s also tension between the humans’ carefully-built school and curated gardens versus the wilderness of the outback and its animals and insects. Hanging Rock is wild and untamed, unlike the gardens at Mrs. Appleyard’s college.
I loved the movie as much as I did the book, and that’s saying something. I highly recommend both. Each one is haunting and beautiful and, at times, awful as well. Neither book nor movie offers an explanation of what happened at the rock, which makes the stories all the more chilling.
I love the flute music so much that I’ve included a link to it here. Let me know what you think of it in the comments!