Picnic at Hanging Rock has captured Australian and international audiences for decades, but what makes it such an iconic Australian film? child mags blog asked Belinda Hunt, documents and artefacts curator at The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, a few questions about the new online exhibition, Picnic at Hanging Rock: 40 Years a Mystery.
What can people expect to see in the exhibition?
Display stills, posters, lobby cards, scripts, props, costumes, artefacts, oral histories, music, trailers and film out-takes. The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia has a wealth of collection items from the movie, so it was a great opportunity to digitise. We also hold production papers and clippings that provide a rich source of behind-the-scenes detail and trivia. The 360-degree photography of the costumes provides an opportunity for viewers to examine the dresses in detail, along with an accompanying blog that focuses on their role in the creative process of film-making.
Why do you think Picnic has held fast as a fashion and pop culture reference over the last four decades?
There are so many themes in Picnic at Hanging Rock to engage an audience: it’s an unsolved mystery (the audience wants to believe that it was a true story); the cinematography is reminiscent of an Australian impressionist painting; the wonderful use of music to enhance its ethereal quality; and the picture it paints of British society plonked down in a hostile Australian bush. The interaction of the female form and transparency of light through fabric was an aesthetic of the 1970s – Picnic certainly picks up these themes, even acknowledging the influence of David Hamilton’s photography in the scenes at the beginning with the schoolgirls getting dressed by the windows. In an era when diaphanous garments were all the rage, Picnic re-enforced this image of femininity.
Where were the items collected from?
The majority of the items were donated by people involved in the production of the film, but the costumes and some props were donated by Anne Lambert (who played Miranda) and Pat Lovell (the producer).
How would you introduce this exhibition to kids?
For a younger girl, I’d ask her to imagine what it must have been like to wear a corset, petticoats, stockings, lace-up boots, gloves and a hat every day, especially in high summer.
An older child may empathise with the orphan Sara’s predicament in the film and compare her costume to the other girls’ fancier clothes.
For a younger boy, Michael and his friendship with Albert demonstrates the difference between English and Australian cultures, but also their strength of character in never giving up on their quest to find the missing girls. The stills and lobby cards illustrate the difference between the two men.
What’s your favourite part of the exhibition?
I think my favourite item in the exhibition is the painted wooden noticeboard with a ‘missing’ poster attached. It appears at the picnic grounds towards the end of the story and is a melancholic object – signifying the passing of time and the fruitless search for the missing girls.
See the exhibition at The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
p.s Lover’s newest Picnic-inspired collection.