National Fictions: Literature, Film and the construction of Australian narrative (1986)

Book author Graeme Turner

Picnic at Hanging Rock references

As in the fiction of White, Herbert, Stow or Keneally, the land operates as a source of meaning, offering a kind of spirituality or significance that is explicitly absent from society. The opening of Picnic at Hanging Rock presents a slow pan across a landscape which is gradually losing its veil of fog, the camera moving from the natural majesty of the rock to the presumptuous imposed order of the Ladies' College. As the opposition between these two entities is established visually, it is punctuated and emphasised by the sudden introduction of the flutes in the soundtrack. The basic conflict of the film is established even before the titles have concluded. And the resolution fo this conflict leaves the rock impervious and victorious; the society is routed and the film-maker, Marlow-like, asks us not only to see this occurrence as "one of the mysteries" but also as some intimation of the innate and obdurate strength and hostility of this world. Such deference to the land and its imperatives is at least equivocal (as indeed it is in Clarke and Lawson) in that the land is not a considerate host.

...Miranda's 'victimhood' in Picnic emerges from an heightened sensitivity to the rock and to the sense of her own fate, delivered to the audience by the obscure premonitory remarks which she makes at the beginning of the film. But even this individuality is limited, as it emerges not so much from her character as from her 'nature'.

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