"I expect we're the first white people he's seen."
- The Girl, Walkabout
This Week's Essays
Related Review: Walkabout
Like Picnic at Hanging Rock, Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout, which came out in 1971, uses the landscape of Australia to evoke a sense of horror, but one that’s not typical “horror film” horror. Rather, it’s the sort of existential fear that accompanies breakfast, lunch, and dinner: the horror of social isolation.
Scenessential: The Disappearance
Through a clever combination of camera angles, camera movements, and editing, the film often gives the sense that its characters are being overcome by the vast influence of nature. This feeling is, perhaps, most felt in the scenes that take place at Hanging Rock itself.
Elements of Horror
Picnic at Hanging Rock isn’t a horror film, but with the way it handles so many tropes from many of its subgenres, it is nearly a perfect one. At different times throughout Peter Weir’s naturalistic drama it elicits feelings of a ghost story, a slasher, an Argento-style giallo, a backwoods trauma film, the occult, a teenage girl psychodrama, all without fully being any of them.
Mystery and Philosophy
With the mysterious, answers are superfluous. The story begins and you ask yourself the same things, only it’s likely you never get your answers. Art like this is polarizing because it doesn’t cater to our need for gratification, our desperate desire to know. This is the uncomfortable space where Picnic at Hanging Rock makes its home.
In the wrong hands, layering on question after question can lead to frustration. Picnic at Hanging Rock doesn’t suffer from this problem. Instead, as I watched the film, my desire for answers melted away. Somewhere between the otherworldly scenery, the ethereal dialog, and the growing sense of foreboding that the film builds, I stopped caring so much about answers and started basking in the unknown