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Picnicking With Peter Weir Along a Psychedelic, Supernatural Path

October 04, 1990|ERIK HAMILTON

Australian film director Peter Weir ("Dead Poets Society," "Witness") has established himself as a talented director, but the filmmaker's earlier efforts have gone largely unnoticed by the American public.

"Picnic at Hanging Rock," released in 1975, is one of Weir's best.

Set in 1900, the film centers around three girls and their teacher who literally vanish off the face of the earth while on a school outing at Australia's Hanging Rock--a favorite haunt of the upper-class whites and a spiritual ground for the aborigines.

Based on a Joan Lindsay novel, which was supposedly based on an actual account, Weir nudges the viewer along a psychedelic/supernatural path that follows the events before and after the foursome's disappearance.

With the use of a King Crimson-like soundtrack, the film has an almost drug-induced feel that tugs at your senses.

As with all Weir films, the environment plays an intricate part in the story. In this case, Australia's famed Ayers Rock is used as a haunting backdrop.

Don't look for any big-name stars in this one. And except for Welch actress Rachel Roberts ("When a Stranger Calls"), the cast is entirely Australian.

While constantly prodding the viewer to answer the nagging question: What happened at Hanging Rock? Weir never attempts to explain, but instead lets viewers' imaginations run wild, and lets them come to their own conclusions.

" Picnic at Hanging Rock" (1975), directed by Peter Weir. 115 minutes. Rated R .


"Miracle Mile" (1989), directed by Steve DeJarnatt. 87 minutes. Rated R. Among the best of the nuclear apocalyptic films, the mood of this one resembles that of the quirky "After Midnight." A man races against time after mistakenly receiving a message that missiles have been launched and World War III is an hour away. Intense, humorous and powerful.

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