DVD: Picnic at Hanging Rock (PG)

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The Independent Culture

Peter Weir's 1975 masterpiece, adapted from Joan Lindsay's Victorian mystery novel, receives the Blu-ray treatment: a director's cut, a 120-minute-long making-of and an interview with Lindsay.

A landmark in Australian cinema, this haunting and seductive film is a visual and aural feast. In fact, all of Weir's films sound – like those of Terrence Malick – absolutely exquisite: the score, the wildlife, the dialogue etc.

The plot centres on a group of boarding-school girls in 1900 and their Valentine's Day picnic expedition to Victoria's Hanging Rock. In this forbidding landscape, drenched in searing sunshine, four girls split from the party to climb the Rock. Three of the girls are never seen again. Weir's beautifully judged film is full of wonderful little touches, such as the moment when the young ranger discovers the only "survivor" on the Rock. At first, he doesn't bend down to touch her; rather he nudges her gently with his foot. Is it fear? Hope? Squeamishness? Or just good ranger practice? Who knows?

Picnic at Hanging Rock is enigmatic, creepy, dreamy, hypnotic, lyrical and superbly acted, particularly Rachel Roberts's repressed headmistress, Mrs Appleyard. Redolent of Walkabout, L'Avventura and, in particular, A Passage to India, Weir's mesmerising examination of sexual hysteria/awakening is just about perfect.