27 September 2023

Picnic at Hanging Rock

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

Directors: Michael Rymer, Larysa Kondracki, Amanda Brotchie, Roadshow Entertainment.

Cast: Natalie Dormer, Lily Sullivan, Madeleine Madden, Samara Weaving, Lola Bessis, Yael Stone.

It is a ‘stunning’ adaptation of an iconic 1967 Australian novel that plunges us into the mysterious disappearances of three schoolgirls and their governess on Valentine’s Day, 1900.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is a trailblazer, a vivid reimagining of Joan Lindsay’s timeless narrative that’s come back to revive some haunting images.

A group of schoolgirls from the Appleyard College take a day trip to dark and brooding Hanging Rock. As the sun beats down and the picnic progresses, three girls and their governess go missing in the Australian bush.

There’s an eccentric Gothic mansion, built with gold-rush winnings out in the Australian bush.

Theories soon abound, exploring the event’s far-reaching impact on the students and staff of the college and its enigmatic headmistress. Paranoia sets in, and long-held secrets surface, as the Rock exerts its strange power and the dark stain of the unsolved mystery continues to spread.

The stakes are high and the clock does not stop. Events at the picnic have an undulating effect. As the stakes are high, we get the chance to also get a glimpse into the past and future of the characters.

It’s edge-of-the-seat anticipation as each episode pieces together the events that led up to the disappearance. Pivotal moments are shown from ‘conflicting viewpoints, creating fresh suspicions and unexpected suspects’.

A persuasive mystery with many compelling risky secrets and confrontational scandals, the dangerous elements include murder, love, beauty, sex and death. It’s not hard to relate to the characters, entwined in a cauldron of transition and rejuvenation.

Of course, there is the fear of the unknown that leads to the exploration of controlling sexuality issues. Theories abound, secrets are exposed and hysteria sets in, until eventually, the lives of our characters unravel – in Blu-ray dimensions.

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