Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

How could she allow herself to be spirited away?

Today's film is Picnic at Hanging Rock.  In 1900 in Australia, students from Appleyard College, a girl's private school, went on a field trip to Hanging Rock, a geological formation.  Four students and one teacher vanished without a trace.  Later, one student was found but had no recollection of what happened.

The logical explanation would be the students were exploring the nearby caves.  It is easy to get stuck or lost in a cave if you do not know what you are doing.  The teacher went after them to find them and subsequently got lost as well.  One of the students eventually found her way out and was discovered, but was so traumatized she could not remember how she came to escape.

Now, this film is not based on a true story at all. It's actually based on a novel.  So, there are many hints that the disappearance may be supernatural.  Hanging Rock is a one million year old volcano that has not erupted in a long time.  The four girls remove their shoes and stocking and begin climbing the formation, almost in a trance.  The pudgy, whiny girl following them is frightened by their actions and lack of response to her and runs away in fear.  Did the volcano call them?  Did they disappear into another dimension?  The area where they begin taking off their shoes is a round, flat field surrounded by the tall rocks.  There is something called a fairy circle, which is a ring of fungus or mushrooms that grow in a perfect circle.  Legend has it that if you step inside one, you'll vanish.  Is the circle of stone a large fairy circle?

Both the cabdriver and one of the teachers notice that the watches have all stopped at noon.  Does this have anything to do with magnectic fields around the volcano, or is this supernatural as well?  If this is indeed a portal to another dimension, time may not exist in the area.  Again, we don't know.

The headmistress of Appleyard College strangely reminds me of Yubaba from Spirited Away.  She is stern with her pupils and takes charge of everything.  Secretly, she does care about them, but she will never show it publicly.  Her hair is in a wide bun and she wears a dark blue dress with a brooch. She seems to know more about the mysteries of the area than she lets on.  She even warns her students before they leave not to climb the formation at all.  The ones who disobey her and climb are the ones who vanish.

Mrs. Appleyard, the Headmistress

Notice the similar hairstyle and outfit.  She also has
the same attitude to those she is in charge
of as well. She also is in tune with the magic and
mysteries of the surrounding area.

The film asks many questions, but does not take the time to answer any of them.  It's just like real life.  There are so many things that are now unexplained.  It is easy to attribute them to supernatural forces, but that may not be the case.  The film shows that there is still much of the world left to be explored and explained.  I liked the contrast between everyone's stuffy British outfits (their fancy dresses and white gloves) and the beauty of nature.  They are trying to survive in a wild new country and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous.  The pacing of the movie is slow, so it's not a thrilling mystery, and yet it left me with a sense of wonder.  I will give this film a 7/10.

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