Monday, April 17, 2017

Is it better before, or after?

I'd seen Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock before, and I'd been to the actual Hanging Rock before, but neither in close enough proximity to each other for one to provide meaningful perspective on the other.

For my second of both, I vowed to do them both in the same weekend -- but the question became which one to do first.

My conventional thinking was to see Weir's 1975 film, which I'd first seen in 2005 as one of the Australian films my Australian girlfriend (now wife) wanted to show me, first. Then I'd have it in my mind as my family and I spent Easter on "the Rock," our first visit in three years. (Which I found kind of an interesting corollary to the events of Joan Lindsay's novel source material, which takes place on a different holiday, Valentine's Day, of 1900.)

But the opportunity was lost when I motioned to make it our second movie of Saturday evening, but my wife hemmed and hawed. I could have just watched it myself, but she expressed enough interest in seeing it, though not that night, that I was compelled to wait. She did suggest it as probable/possible Easter night viewing, so that seemed good enough.

I guess I thought Hanging Rock, a dramatic and anomalous geographical formation about 45 minutes' drive from Melbourne, would have an extra creep factor for me if I'd seen the movie -- in which three school girls go into a trance and disappear into its crevices -- the night before. But with the place absolutely swarming with people, that tended to diminish some of its more ominous properties.

Oh, there's a photo in case you want to get a sense what it's all about:

And one from the movie, during the key scene:

Bye girls. See you never.


So instead of having the viewing recently in my mind, I took pleasure in seeing the movie with the recent visit in mind. We did indeed watch it Sunday night after a great day up on the Rock -- or, as close to a great day as you can come with a six-year-old and a three-year-old, who don't want any of the foods you brought for your picnic (yes, we did) and are constantly coming dangerously close to killing themselves.

It was wonderful to be reminded how good movies looked back in the 70s, when film was king and when period pieces had an indefinable air of mystery to them. It was a lot better reminder than I got when watching the comparatively cruddy looking Carrie on Thursday night. This movie is lyrical and mysterious and entrancing. I am listening to Gheorge Zamfir's haunting pan flute score as I write this. (And might as well link it for you here in case you want a listen, which alone might prompt a viewing.)

Although the rock formation is, unsurprisingly, identical now to how it would have been 40-some years ago, it was difficult to say "Hey, we climbed that one today!" or "I remember that exact view" because there are so many different rocky outcrops that are easy to mistake for one another. I imagine it was this very maze-like quality the rocks have, with their various nooks and crannies and secret passageways, that inspired Joan Lindsay to write her 1967 novel.

And alas, it is just a novel. Although there are persistent rumors that the place is haunted, most of them stem from this story, which Lindsay once refused to classify as fictitious. It was probably a pre-Blair Witch Project attempt to lend an additional air of strangeness to something, pretending it was really in order to goose the buzz about it. Though we all now know that the girls of Appleyard College (which does not and never did exist) never made a fateful visit to the Rock on St. Valentine's Day in 1900.

The whole place is suffused with such a powerful and delirious oddness that I really wish they had.

No comments: