Australian Screen

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Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

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clip 'We shall only be gone a little while' education content clip 1, 2

Original classification rating: PG. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

After their picnic lunch, school friends Miranda (Anne Lambert), Marion (Jane Vallis) and Irma (Karen Robson) ask permission from their French mistress Mademoiselle de Portiers (Helen Morse) to go for a walk around the base of the rock. Overweight Edith (Chris Schuler) asks if she can come too. They pass sleeping picnickers, Colonel Fitzhubert (Peter Collingwood) and his wife (Olga Dickie), and the Colonel’s English nephew Michael (Dominic Guard), who’s drinking with Albert (John Jarratt), the manservant. Michael is mesmerised from afar by the beauty of Miranda.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows four young schoolgirls leaving a school picnic at Hanging Rock, a local landmark in Victoria, after asking permission to explore the Rock. One of the teachers watches the girls as they leave and then examines a book with images by Italian artist Sandro Botticelli. She realises that Miranda (Anne Lambert) resembles one of the Botticelli angels in the book. Pan-pipe music accompanies the action as the girls run along the track towards the Rock. They walk past a woman holding a parasol and a man, both sitting near a picnic table, and then cross a stream where they are observed by two young men. The camera lingers on Miranda as she looks towards the Rock.

Educational value points

  • The clip is from a film based on the novel Picnic at Hanging Rock by the Australian author Joan Lindsay. The novel is Lindsay’s best-known work and follows themes that she also explored elsewhere in her writing concerning the people and places she knew well. Lindsay (1896–1984) was born in East St Kilda and studied at the National Gallery School of Art in Melbourne. She intended to be a professional artist and her sensitivity as a visual artist is evident in her writing. Following the publication of the novel she encouraged the resulting speculation about whether or not the story was based on true events.
  • The film Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) established Peter Weir’s reputation as a film director. He made his first feature-length film, The Cars that Ate Paris (1974), after film study overseas followed by work at the Commonwealth Film Unit. Picnic at Hanging Rock gained national and international acclaim and Weir’s next major hit was Gallipoli (1981). Weir headed for Hollywood and gained success with Witness (1985). Since then his international success has continued with films such as Dead Poet’s Society (1989), The Truman Show (1998) and Master and Commander (2003).
  • The pan-pipe music supports and intensifies the visual images and helps to sustain the eerie sense of mystery that pervades the film. The film score was composed by Bruce Smeaton and featured mesmeric pan-pipe music played by Romanian Gheorghe Zamfir, considered at the time to be the finest pan flute player in the world. The successful musical collaboration was a hit in its own right, marking an important moment in the history of musical scoring for Australian films. It was Smeaton’s second film score. Since then he has provided the musical score for many well-known films including The Devil’s Playground (1976), Plenty (1985), Evil Angels (1988) and The Missing (2002).
  • The clip features the Australian bush and focuses on the landmark Hanging Rock in a way that projects the Rock as a mysterious and threatening presence. Hanging Rock is the colloquial name for Mount Diogenes, a volcanic outcrop situated in the Hesket plains near the townships of Mount Macedon and Woodend in Victoria. It was the setting for a 1967 novel by Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock, upon which the film of the same name was based.
  • The careers of a number of Australians were launched by the success of this film. Both director Peter Weir and the cinematographer Russell Boyd went on to internationally recognised careers in their fields. Picnic at Hanging Rock was also producer Patricia Lovell’s first major success, and actors Helen Morse and Anne Lambert became well known after their roles in the film.
  • The central character in the clip is Miranda, played by the actor Anne Lambert (1956–), who was a television actor in the well-known Number 96 series prior to gaining the part of Miranda. After Picnic at Hanging Rock she travelled to the UK where she took a leading role in Peter Greenaway’s first film, The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982). She also appeared on stage playing opposite Lauren Bacall in Sweet Bird of Youth.

Miranda, Marion and Irma are leaving the picnic to go for a walk around the base of the rock. Mademoiselle speaks to Marion and Irma in French as they link hands.
Edith May I come too please?
Irma So long as you don’t complain.
Edith I won’t, I promise.
Miranda And don’t worry about us, Mademoiselle, we shall only be gone a little while.

Pan-pipe music plays as the girls walk off. Miranda turns back to wave and Mademoiselle de Portiers waves back, smiling. Mademoiselle de Portiers is looking at an art book with a picture of Botticelli’s painting of Venus.
Mademoiselle de Portiers Ah, now I know.
Miss McCraw regards her sternly.
Miss McCraw What do you know?
Mademoiselle de Portiers I know that Miranda is a Botticelli angel.

The four girls run laughing through the bush. They pass sleeping picnickers, Colonel Fitzhubert and his wife. Edith is running a little behind the other girls.
Edith Wait!

The girls are watched by Albert, the manservant, who is drinking with the colonel’s English nephew, Michael. The girls come to a stream which they have to cross.
Miranda Can you manage it, Edith?
Edith I don’t know.
She steps carefully out onto the stones that lead across the stream.
Edith I don’t want to get my feet wet.
Edith loses her footing slightly.
Edith Ooh!

Albert whistles at the girls and smiles at Michael. They both sit down watching the girls cross the stream.
Albert I thought the little fat one was gonna take a bath. Some of them are real lookers! Have a look at the shape of the dark one with the curls – built like an hourglass. And have a go at the last one – the blonde!

Miranda crosses the stream slowly, tossing a flower into the water and watching it float away.

Albert She’d have a decent pair of legs, all the way up to her bum.
Michael I’d rather you didn’t say crude things like that, Albert.
Albert I say the crude things, you just think ‘em.

One of the girls calls to Miranda who has stopped in the middle of crossing the stream and has been left behind.
Edith Miranda!

Albert Take my word for it – the shelias are all alike when it comes to fellas. Doesn’t matter if it’s a bloody college you come from or the Ballarat Orphanage, where me and me kid sister was dragged up.
Michael I didn’t know you were an orphan.
Albert Jeez, haven’t thought of that bloody dump in donkey’s years.

Miranda lifts her skirt to jump across the rest of the stream and leaps gracefully to the other side. Micheal stands to watch her. He appears mesmerised.
Edith Miranda!
Miranda smiles to herself as she runs to catch up.

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  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

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