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Picnic at Hanging Rock (Limited Edition) (4K UHD Review)


The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements


During a picnic at the famous Hanging Rock volcanic formation, a group of Australian schoolgirls and one of their teachers go missing causing an uproar in their town and disaster for their upper crust boarding school.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Picnic at Hanging Rock is Peter Weir’s haunting, evocative, and elegiac mystery-drama set in 1900 Australia. A drama examining British colonialism and the juxtaposition of British society with the wild, untamed land of Australia, with the undertone of the brutality imposed on the indigenous population. Darragh O’Donoghue said, “It seems the anguish of pretty white girls in pretty white frocks was considered more palatable for international consumption than the representation of a violently marginalised civilization.”

With that in mind, the film indirectly takes on the Aboriginal sublimation by the Brits through its visualizations of rough, empty terrain, the various sights of nature, or a flock of birds drifting overhead like the spirits of those crushed who have risen.

After we are introduced to a group of girls in their classes at the Appleyard College in the stuffy, too British to be where they are, classrooms and fussy school uniforms under the strict eye of headmistress Mrs. Appelyard (Rachel Roberts), we get the signature opening scenes. It is juxtaposition of those “pretty girls in white frocks” against the dangerous, ominous, jagged cliffs of Hanging Rock. After the schoolgirls are taken on a picnic to Hanging Rock, a place where the ancient presence is immediately felt, a group of the girls, led by Miranda (Anne-Louise Lambert) decide to go explore some of the caves they have discovered. It ends with three of the girls going missing and they never reappear.

The disappearance of the schoolgirls sends the small town, Appleyard College with its oddly verdant, meticulously kept sprawling lawn and English manor-style building at its center, into an uproar. Some, including a young Englishman (Dominic Guard), decide to launch their own search for the girls. Meanwhile, Appleyard College goes into a tailspin caused by the disappearance. Financially, they begin to bleed as parents pull their children from enrollment, and the headmistress goes from strict and by-the-rules to a descent into near madness.

Weir infuses the film with a sense of mystery and supernatural mystique using visuals and the atmospheric, often uncanny score with breathy pan flutes and the sound effects of a slowed-down earthquake which rumbles almost unnoticeably.  Of the many films that emerged from Australia in this era, Picnic at Hanging Rock is arguably the finest work of pure art and it still commands attention.

Purchase Picnic at Hanging Rock (Limited Edition) on Amazon UK

  • Anne-Louise Lambert in Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • Karen Robson in Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • Dominic Guard in Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • Anne-Louise Lambert, Karen Robson, and Jane Vallis in Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • Anne-Louise Lambert, Karen Robson, Christine Schuler, and Jane Vallis in Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (Limited Edition) (Second Sight)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (Limited Edition) (Second Sight)

The Video

Both the Director’s Cut (1998) and original Theatrical Cut of Picnic at Hanging Rock are from a new Second Sight Films 4K scan and restoration from the original camera negative supervised and approved by director Peter Weir and director of photography Russell Boyd. Both versions appear in a 1.66:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) HDR10 encodement. HDR10 Metadata for each version is the same and shows a MaxLL of 800 nits and MaxFALL of 182 nits.

This is an instantly enjoyable and fantastic restoration and transfer. The image is clean, and the granularity is thinly layered and natural. The soft, diffuse appearance of this film does not always lend itself to the crispest of details and there are a few places where faces look just a tad smooth, but it is all made up for with the extended depth of field and clarity that comes with this transfer. The colors glow with a sepia tone in the bright, outdoors scenes, aided by the HDR10 color coding. The HDR10 expands the gradations and nuance in many of the shades. The image is not necessarily very bright, but the HDR looks natural, with the warm glow of lamps and in dark scenes, some brighter specular highlight ‘pop’ is there, but it is still more reserved than gimmicky.

The Audio

The atmospheric audio mix for Picnic at Hanging Rock is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The main sound is across the front channels, but there is a lot of ambience and atmosphere in the surround channels. The low frequencies, while not bombastic, are quite beefy and do well to carry that low, subtly rumbling slowed-down earthquake sound effect that permeates the score.

The Supplements

Second Sight are not disappointing with this mega-packed edition that comes with a slew of on-disc bonus features, including a very interesting audio commentary, and new interviews. The Limited Edition contents include their usual beautiful packaging, and a full copy of the original novel, plus more.

Special Features:

  • Dual format 4-disc set featuring 2 UHDs and 2 Blu-rays
  • Audio commentary by film academics Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson
  • A Lovely Day for a Picnic: a new interview with actor Karen Robson (1080p; 00:11:20) (NEW)
  • Finding the Light: a new interview with director of photography Russell Boyd (1080p; 00:10:48) (NEW)
  • Crashing Through Boundaries: a new interview with camera operator John Seale (1080p; 00:07:04) (NEW)
  • Something Beyond Explanation: Thomas Caldwell on Picnic at Hanging Rock (1080p; 00:22:50)
  • A Dream Within a Dream feature length documentary (1080p; 01:58:01)
  • An Archival Interview with Joan Lindsay (1080p/60; 00:15:00)
  • Recollection: Hanging Rock 1900 (1080p; 00:27:01)
  • Outtakes (1080p; 00:12:31)
  • Original long trailer (1080p; 00:04:54)

Limited Edition Contents:

  • Rigid slipcase with new artwork by Thinh Dinh
  • Soft cover book with new essays by ​​Daniel Bird, Kat Ellinger and Justine Smith, archive essay by Rebecca Harkins-Cross, Costume Gallery, feature on the original marketing of the film and the new restoration
  • The original novel with exclusive cover by Thinh Dinh
  • Six collectors’ art cards 

The Final Assessment

A masterpiece of arthouse, drama, mystery, with elements of horror and the supernatural, this enduring film from Peter Weir belongs in every serious cineaste’s library. Thankfully, Second Sight has done another expert job on a masterpiece of cinema with this 4K release of Picnic at Hanging Rock, bringing it alive visually and aurally, and packaging it with an abundance of bonus features and collectibles. Highly Recommended.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (Limited Edition) is out in the UK on Dual Format 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray 1 May, 2023, from Second Sight Films.

Purchase Picnic at Hanging Rock (Limited Edition) on Amazon UK

  • Studios & Distributors: British Empire Films Australia | The South Australian Film Corporation | The Australian Film Commission | McElroy & McElroy | Picnic Productions Pty. Ltd. | Second Sight Films
  • Director: Peter Weir
  • Written By: Joan Lindsay | Cliff Green
  • Run Time: 107 Mins.
  • Street Date: 1 May 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: HDR10
  • HDR10 Metadata:
    • MaxLL: 800 nits
    • MaxFALL: 182 nits
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH

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During a picnic at the famous Hanging Rock volcanic formation, a group of Australian schoolgirls and one of their teachers go missing causing an uproar in their town and disaster for their upper crust boarding school. Picnic at Hanging Rock (Limited Edition) (4K UHD Review)