Peter Weir Vernon Young - Essay

Vernon Young

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Picnic At Hanging Rock is the second and the best of three films made by Peter Weir and the masterpiece to date of Australian independent filmmaking. To call it a masterpiece in the context of our current critical and advertising vocabulary is to court skepticism; the term is usually reserved for something weighty and pragmatic, believed to point a moral with social resonance. Picnic is frankly a diaphanous horror story…. (p. 416)

Weir's movie is permeated with suppressed eroticism that never crudely surfaces. By lyric touches and the art of indirection he conveys the somewhat smelly radiance that emanates from the girlish admixture of innocent crush and diffused smut which constitutes the eternal milieu of adolescents segregated from the other sex. The spoken language is refreshingly articulate—indeed, it is language—and every color composition exhales a natural or contrived beauty. Lovely girls, lovely analogies: swans, flowers, young trees reflected in darkening waters. I was reminded of Elie Faure's inspired image when describing the phenomenon of Watteau's art under the regime of Louis XIV: "a profound sigh of nature delivered from a corset of iron…."

Having in mind … Picnic at Hanging Rock, I realize that the older I get in the service of the perishable art, the more I am convinced that if a film is not poetry, it is nothing much. (p. 417)

Vernon Young, "Film Chronicle: Trash and Poetry," in The Hudson Review (copyright © 1979 by The Hudson Review, Inc.; reprinted by permission), Vol. XXXII, No. 3, Autumn, 1979, pp. 411-17.∗