After a media preview and Berlinale screening, reviews are starting to gather on Foxtel’s Picnic at Hanging Rock.
It will air in May.
The youthful cast, the themes of adolescent sisterhood and sexuality, the twisty surprises and the liberal dose of horror tropes indicate that the core target audience is a generation that may have zero familiarity with the story. For the rest of us, it’s not going to displace Weir’s film as the definitive version, and in many ways it’s the polar opposite of the original’s transfixing restraint. But it’s a revitalizing fresh take that’s off to a fun start, and looks like it’s only going to get juicier.
It’s impossible to call it after only one episode, but the Picnic at Hanging Rock redux appears to belong to the upper crust of the movement. It’ll take more than a single ep to get a grip on where it’s going thematically, but the writing on the wall suggests the striking contemporary style will meaningfully add to an old, well-probed text (and vice versa). And hot damn, the show looks amazing. It’s a blast to watch it teeter on the brink between atmospheric excellence and stylistic overkill – for now, at least, keeping on the good side of the divide. You could argue this is a case of style over substance, though the same argument could be made, however foolishly, of Weir’s classic.
It takes no time at all for the first episode, directed (somewhat controversially) by Canadian import Larysa Kondracki, to lay down a series of markers that establish its difference from Peter Weir’s 1975 film. For a start, the girls – who function largely as a structuring absence in the movie that effectively launched the “new wave” of Australian cinema – are strong presences here. The framing of shots, use of a bold colour palette – so very different to the David Hamilton-inspired soft-focus approach of Weir’s film – and the driving soundtrack (by Cezary Skubiszewski), again very much at odds with the lyrical pan-pipes of the movie, all establish this as a new beast entirely.