Arlecchino Cinema > 16:15


Peter Weir


Saturday 02/07/2022


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

We worked very hard at creating an hallucinatory, mesmeric rhythm, so that you lost awareness of facts, you stopped adding things up, and got into this enclosed atmosphere. I did everything in my power to hypnotise the audience away from the possibility of solutions.

Peter Weir, in Jan Dawson, Picnic Under Capricorn,“Sight and Sound”, Spring 1976


In a film based around a void, absence and deliberate cancellation (an opening title reveals that, “on Saturday 14th February 1900, a party of schoolgirls from Appleyard College picnicked at Hanging Rock near Mount Macedon in the State of Victoria. During the afternoon, several members of the party disappeared without trace”) what is most surprising is the abundance of ‘signs’ and ‘keys’ planted by the film itself, as if to trick us into believing that it will lead us to the very heart of the labyrinth. […] In this film, which is above all a study of repression, latent violence threatens to explode when reality no longer offers any ‘sign’, any handle we can grasp onto, like the bare surface of Hanging Rock. For example, the scene in which the sergeant sends the passersby home having recognised that the atmosphere is pregnant with the threat of lynching; or the scene in which the sole survivor, Irma, returns to school and is attacked in the gym by her classmates for her silence over what happened. Conversely, the culm nation and secret heart of the drama can be found in the scene in which the English boy, Mark, goes to the mountain to look for the girls and leaves ephemeral traces of his passage, as in the fable of Tom Thumb, and then secretly hands over a privileged ‘sign’, clenched in his closed fist, to his friend Albert: a piece of lace from Irma’s dress. Mark is Dominic Guard, Losey’s little go-between, now an adolescent but still fulfilling the role of an ‘intermediary’ who communicates messages and conveys fragments of other people’s conversations. Around him, in the school and the house where he boards (which is also Losey-esque), 19th century Englanders attempt to decipher those messages, to celebrate its rituals of class and race and to remain heroically faithful to its prejudices in a hostile hand that has its own language and its own, more indecipherable, messages.

Guido Fink, “Bianco e nero”, March-April 1977

Cast and Credits

Sog.: from the novel of the same name (1967) by Joan Lindsay. Scen.: Cliff Green. F.: Russell Boyd. M.: Max Lemon. Scgf.: David Copping. Int.: Rachel Roberts (Mrs. Appleyard), Vivean Gray (Miss McCraw), Helen Morse (Mlle. de Poitiers), Kirsty Child (Miss Lumley), Tony Llewellyn-Jones (Tom), Jacki Weaver (Minnie), Frank Gunnell (Mr. Whitehead) Anne-Louise Lambert (Miranda), Karen Robson (Irma). Prod.: Hal McElroy, Jim McElroy per McElroy & McElroy, British Empire Films Australia, The South Australian Film Corporation, The Australian Film Commission, Picnic Productions Pty. Ltd. 35mm. D.: 107’. Col.