NYE with a Botticelli Angel

The day before New Year’s Eve I had the random thought…. I have to watch Picnic at Hanging Rock again! I think looking in Zimmerman earlier in the week subliminally stimulated this wayward thought. Those divine, ultra feminine dresses.

I hadn’t seen Picnic at Hanging Rock for at least 15 years but I did recall it was an incredibly beautiful film even if it was somewhat eerie. I also remembered reading the Joan Lindsay novel at school.

I set about Googling all about Picnic at Hanging Rock. The author and painter, Joan Lindsay, wrote the historical fiction novel in 1967 after having a series of lucid dreams over two weeks. The contents of her book literally turned up in her dreams every night and she would then pen them the next day.

The novel is initially set at the exclusive all girls boarding school, Appleyard College, on St Valentine’s Day in 1900.  Later in the novel, events focus on the girl’s picnic outing at Hanging Rock, the mysterious disappearance of three schoolgirls and a teacher and the ensuing paranoia and tragedy back at Appleyard College.

Fast forward to 1973 when film producer, Patricia Lovell, read the novel and thought it would make a great film. Patricia approached up and coming Australian director, Peter Weir, to direct the film.

Peter quickly realized his greatest challenge would be to create a mystery drama which explored many themes: time, the freedom of the bush as opposed to the social and moral restrictions of life in 1900 Australia and developing characters which would bring the unsolved mystery to life on the screen.

In 1975 with cinematographer, Russell Boyd, Weir set about creating some of the most incredible scenes ever filmed in the Australian bush. Many were reminiscent of a Roberts or Streeton.  These scenes could only be shot for an hour a day so filmmaking was a painstakingly slow process.

The haunting sound of George Zamfir’s pan pipes and Judith Dorsman’s beautiful costumes helped to create a dreamy atmosphere throughout the film. The ethereal Miranda came to life wearing a delicate, white muslin dress, was coined a Botticelli Angel and became part of Australian film history and our psyche.

Didn’t we all want to look like and be Miranda??

Picnic at Hanging Rock quickly enjoyed international acclaim and has since earned a reputation as an iconic film classic. The Australian film industry was finally taken seriously overseas as a result of Picnic at Hanging Rock.

I often think the costuming in Picnic at Hanging Rock has subconsciously influenced certain Australian designers. Zimmerman, Aje and Morrision to name a few.

Zimmerman’s antique rose layered dress.

Morrison sky blue day dress.

Interestingly Fremantle Media Australia has produced a drama series of 6×60 minute episodes of Picnic at Hanging Rock airing on Foxtel this year. The series will take viewers on a profound journey into the classic novel. The series was shot in Victoria.

Miranda still lives  on!


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