Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

Picnic at Hanging Rock (4K Review)

3 min read

Second Sight

You'd be hard pushed to find a movie collector who doesn't foam at the mouth at the thought of a new Limited Edition release from . Truly managing to corner the market can't be easy, but they do it. , Peter Weirs mystical almost genreless piece of Australian curiosity is a perfect addition to their collection.

It's Valentine's Day in 1900, and the students at an elite girls boarding school in rural Australia are excited to go on a picnic at the ancient Hanging Rock. They spend their morning sharing romantic poetry, giddy at the prospect of escaping from their stuffy upper class Victorian existence.

Second Sight

As they get closer to the rock, the trappings of their lives begin to fall away. Past the final white settlement they remove their gloves, and arriving there relax against the rocks, enjoying the freedom away from the propriety forced by their headmistress, Mrs. Appleyard (Rachel Roberts).

Four of the girls, Miranda (Anne-Louise Lambert), Marion (Jane Vallis), Irma (Karen Robson) and Edith (Christine Schuler) decide to explore a little and make their way slowly up the rock. With each step higher, an invisible force apparently draws them up whilst encouraging a further removal of their restrictive clothing. Their stockings, shoes and corsets.

Eventually, the girls and their teachers fall asleep, and when they wake, three of the four explorers have disappeared. This unsettles the school, further dragging the staff and students away from the stability they are used to.

Second Sight

Incredibly open to interpretation, it's difficult to fully explain what this film is about as it is so subjective. The Australian rural setting encourages a certain commentary on colonialism and the power of the ancient religions those colonisers attempted to stamp out, but there are other comments too around class, gender and modernity that belong firmly in the 1970s when it was filmed. There is a homoeroticism to the communications between characters, with their openness and fascination with each other again feeling intentionally out of place against the backdrop.

It would not be out of place amongst other Australian or New Zealand cinema, Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout in particular, but also more recently Cargo, Lake Mungo and Nightingale. All of which explore the conflict between colonisers and their victims, and most of which also have Second Sight releases. You can't really question their dedication to a nicely themed shelf.

Despite some comments around the transfer being DNR heavy, that wasn't apparent here. With there being a canny balance between the sharpness of some scenes and the dreamlike misty intentions of others. As always the bonus features are what truly makes these releases worth picking up.

Perhaps a niche addition to Second Sight's repertoire, this dreamlike, open ended, vague and fascinating piece of cinematic history won't be for everyone. With few explanations and little resolution it's as frustrating as it is engrossing.

Special Features 

  • A new Second Sight 4K restoration from the original camera negative supervised and approved by Director Peter Weir and Director of Photography Russell Boyd
  • Dual format 4 disc set featuring 2 UHDs and 2 Blu-rays both with bonus features
  • Includes restored versions of both Director's Cut and original Theatrical Cut
  • UHDs presented in HDR
  • Audio Commentary by film academics Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson
  • A Lovely Day for a Picnic: a new interview with Actor Karen Robson
  • Finding the Light: a new interview with Cinematographer Russell Boyd
  • Crashing Through Boundaries: a new interview Camera Operator John Seale
  • Something Beyond Explanation: Thomas Caldwell on Picnic at Hanging Rock
  • A Dream Within a Dream feature length documentary
  • An interview with author Joan Lindsay
  • A Recollection: Hanging Rock 1900
  • Outtakes
  • Original long trailer

Limited Edition Contents

  • Rigid slipcase with new artwork by Thinh Dinh
  • Soft cover book with new essays by Daniel Bird, Kat Ellinger and Justine Smith, archive essay by Rebecca Harkins-Cross, Costume Gallery and features on the original marketing of the film and the new restoration
  • The original novel with exclusive cover art by Thinh Dinh
  • 6 collectors' art cards

Picnic at Hanging Rock is released on and Blu-ray on May 1st.