If you haven’t seen Picnic at Hanging Rock and are curious, don’t let the gauzy Edwardian setting fool you: it’s a deeply haunting story. The Australian classic, originally released in 1975, was directed by Peter Weir and based on the novel by Joan Lindsay. The fictional story follows a group of boarding school girls who go on a picnic with their teacher on Valentine’s Day in 1900, and then disappear.
The film then details the fallout at the school and in the community following the disappearance, and what could have happened. If you have to have things neatly sewn up, this isn’t the movie for you. But the mystery aside (and there is more than one), the dreamy atmosphere that Weir creates that turns nightmarish at odd moments is positively Lynchian at times. It’s a fascinating work that also explores a time of both sexual repression and the late days of colonialism, where the girls are at odds with the “wild nature” of the hinterlands they are exploring at the same time that they are discovering their own latent sexuality.
With that in mind, it’s not completely surprising that the movie is now being remade. Variety reports that Fremantle Australia with pay-TV group Foxtel are developing a 6-part miniseries that will be able to dive deeper into the relationships that the girls have and the aftermath of the disappearance. It’s a smart move to not turn the story into a series, though, which would surely require explanations, and none could possibly be as good as the horror one can conjure while going through the possibilities of what happened to the girls and their teacher.
Penny Win, Foxtel’s head of drama, said,
“The 1975 film which was pivotal in establishing the modern Australian film industry. This series, based on the classic novel, will take viewers on a new and in depth journey into this incredibly iconic Australian story.”
It will be interesting to see if the miniseries will try and match the tone and visual style of the movie, which based its look on Australian Impressionism, beautifully complementing the delicate stylings of Edwardian fashions on display throughout. The soundtrack, too, is extremely distinct, so whether or not the miniseries chooses to create its own unique take on the material or if it will seek to follow this model remains to be seen.
In the meantime, definitely watch the original movie, or revisit it if you haven’t seen it in awhile. It’s a period of time that was ignored on television for a long time, and Picnic at Hanging Rock captures that mixture of wary amazement at the dawning of the 20th century rather perfectly.