Picnic during Hanging Rock: a unusual story

April 2, 2017 - Picnic Time

On a 50th anniversary of artist and author Joan Lindsay’s Picnic during Hanging Rock, Janelle McCulloch tells a story of a author, a birth and a conspicuous film that followed.

On a 50th anniversary of artist and author Joan Lindsay’s Picnic during Hanging Rock, Janelle McCulloch tells a story of a author, a birth and a conspicuous film that followed.

At a Hanging Rock by William Ford (1875, National Gallery of Victoria) might have desirous Lindsay’s novel. Photo: William Ford

It was 9.30am on a dour winter’s day in 1966 when Joan Lindsay sat down to blueprint out a tract of Picnic during Hanging Rock. It was a same time she routinely started her essay day, yet this day felt different. A sinister midnight gale had churned a few remaining leaves off a aged roses in Joan and her father Daryl’s side garden and a crowd of saturated dim clouds had also altered in, channel a panorama like black-coated villains in a Victorian Gothic novel. In a grave midwinter light, a landscape looked entirely dispiriting. It was, Joan mused to Rae Clements, their long-term, live-in housekeeper, a ideal day to stay inside and write.

Joan had woken that morning with a dappled ruins of a rare dream imprinted on a edges of her conscious. She knew immediately, she told Rae after that day, that it would make a good book. The dream had centred on a summer cruise during a place called Hanging Rock, that Joan knew good from her childhood holidays. Joan told Rae that a dream had felt so genuine that when she awoke during 7.30am, she could still feel a prohibited summer zephyr floating by a resin trees and she could still hear a peals of delight and review of a people she’d imagined, and their amusement and levity of suspicion as they set out on their joyous cruise expedition.

And so, wrapped adult comfortable opposite a chill – for Mulberry Hill on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula was insufficiently exhilarated opposite a winter conditions – Joan pulled her favourite bluish cardigan around her petite frame, walked adult a staircase, incited left into her private essay room and sensitively sealed a doorway on a world. Her mind was focused on one thing: a bizarre cruise of her dream and removing it down on paper.

By midday Joan had already pencilled out a elementary plot, according to Rae. The comment revolved around a organisation of pleasing schoolgirls from an chosen ladies’ college in a Australian panorama who set out on a Valentine’s Day picnic. She had motionless to set a picnic, and a story, on Saint Valentine’s Day, given it had always been her favourite day of a year – a day she and Daryl had eloped in London many years ago.

As a cold winter’s day wore on, Joan continued to remember a dream of a cruise during Hanging Rock with surprising clarity. She spent many of that day perplexing to write it all down. That night she had a dream again, and a subsequent day she rushed to write a comment before it transient her. This happened again a subsequent night, and thereafter any night for a week.

According to Rae, Joan didn’t know given a story was entrance to her in a array of unequivocally transparent dreams, yet she didn’t care. The swell of disproportion was refreshing her scarcely 70-year-old body. Joan knew instinctively that she was onto a good thing. Tap, tap, daub went a typewriter keys. Morning, noon and night. Joan after told her literary agent, “Picnic during Hanging Rock really was an knowledge to write, given we was usually unfit when we was essay it. we usually arrange of suspicion about it all night and in a morning we would go loyal adult and lay on a floor, papers all around me, and usually write like a demon!”

“She unequivocally did dream a method of chapters,” recalls Rae, who also remembers Joan’s fad when she was essay a book. “She would come down from her investigate any day and contend she’d had a dream again. Then she’d plead a characters and what they were adult to. She desired Miranda and a French mistress. Miranda was her favourite character. She was also lustful of Albert. She mostly said, ‘Poor Albert! Poor tiny Sara!’ She unequivocally had her favourites.”

While Joan credited her unusual dreams for a tract of Picnic during Hanging Rock, she had also envisaged essay such a story for some time, nonetheless she might not have suspicion of a tangible outline. In 1963, she had told her good crony Colin Caldwell that she wanted to write a novel about a place that had always preoccupied her. She thereafter constructed a imitation of a 1875 portrayal of Hanging Rock by William Ford (At the Hanging Rock, infrequently referred to as Picnic during Hanging Rock.) Caldwell asked when she’d final seen Hanging Rock. She couldn’t remember, she said. So off a dual of them went in Caldwell’s car, for an afternoon picnic. “We took cold steep and a bottle of wine,” wrote Joan in her unpublished memoirs.

Joan Lindsay as a immature woman. Photo: Courtesy of The National Trust

Joan and Caldwell spent a morning eating and celebration during Hanging Rock’s cruise grounds, usually as picnickers had been doing given a 1850s. When they’d finished their tiny picnic, a dual began to stand a trail, adult to a aloft slopes. Halfway adult a path, Caldwell motionless to leave her alone – “to feel that condemned thing”, he after said.

Some of Joan’s friends called her a “mystic”. According to those who were tighten to her, she had certain abilities, sensitivities. She could “see” things that others couldn’t, generally in a brush landscape. She knew things yet being told. She could not usually tell what had happened in a past, yet also envision events in a future, yet meaningful given or how. And she could promulgate with those who live in that grey space between life and a universe over it. Those friends feel that Joan’s novel is a outcome of this unusual ability, that she’d had ever given she was three.

“Oh yes, she was unequivocally many a mystic,” confirms Caldwell, who was assured of her ability after their Hanging Rock expedition. “She could clarity things in a landscape that others couldn’t.” 

Melbourne educational Terence O’Neill, who befriended Joan in her after years, believes that she always attempted to censor this visionary side from her husband, Daryl, given she knew he was deeply asocial of anything of that nature. “It was transparent that she was meddlesome in Spiritualism, and longed for some devout dimension in her life, yet she didn’t feel protected bringing that side of her out in front of her husband,” he says. “So we cruise she channelled it into her writing. we know she was unequivocally meddlesome in Arthur Conan Doyle and his faith in and theories about Spiritualism, inlet and a existence of spirits.”

“I went to reason out my hand, yet Joan walked loyal adult to me, put her arms around me, and pronounced in a unequivocally romantic way, ‘Oh Miranda, it’s been so long!’ “

Less than dual weeks was all it took to write a book. When Joan had finished writing, she suspicion about a title. Then she remembered William Ford’s painting. The pretension was perfect. It was elementary and pretty, and belied a horrors dark within. A paradox, really. Joan had always precious those.

F. W. Cheshire Melbourne edition executive Andrew Fabinyi suspicion it had promise, and upheld it to comparison editor John Hooker and youth editor Sandra Forbes. Forbes, who went on to a stellar career that enclosed several years as executive officer of a Australia Council’s novel unit, wrote a following to Joan: “I unequivocally enjoyed reading this, it seems to have a right mix of ‘truth’ and fiction. Given that a tangible disappearance of a girls is a fact, it is a fascinating problem, good presented in a impression unequivocally many in gripping with a duration and personages involved.” There was usually one thing, combined Forbes. Might a story advantage from a tiny some-more ambiguity? She suggested deletion a final chapter, that delved into a devout realm.

The suggestion, to that Joan agreed, valid to be a advantageous one. Without a final chapter, in that a blank schoolgirls seem to disappear into time, a story ends with a doubt mark, and it’s this poser that lingers in readers’ minds.

Production on a novel, in credentials for a 1967 announcement date, took several months, and a dual women got to know any other over Joan’s favourite tipple, gin. “Joan was Lady Lindsay by this point, and a distinguished figure in Melbourne society,” remembers Forbes. “She was unequivocally intelligent and unequivocally elegant. She took me to lunch one day during her club, a Lyceum Club in Melbourne. We talked a lot about a Australian brush and Joan’s feeling for a bush. She pronounced she’d grown adult in a Hanging Rock area or had holidayed there with friends as a child. We talked about a parable and poser of a bush. She also talked about how children, or people, could disappear into it during any time. we think Picnic was eventually about a mural of a abounding story of Australia, and a misconceptions of a bush. She was preoccupied by patterns, by things rippling out from a centre and conversion other things, that is unequivocally a thesis of Picnic.

“Did we cruise a story was true? We did speak about this. But a law for Joan was opposite to a rest of us. She was never candid about it. we cruise we motionless in a finish that it was a good work of a imagination. we see it as a book of place; a painterly book that captures a atmosphere of a Australian bush.”

The novel was launched in Melbourne on Nov 1, 1967 – All Saints Day – by Robert Menzies, who had twice been primary apportion of Australia and was a longtime crony of a Lindsays. There were some important reviews. A censor called Vintner called it “mythopoeic”; and a year after another, called Lemming, likened it to a “faded watercolour”. But a rarely regarded, rarely influential Bulletin wasn’t as convinced. Picnic during Hanging Rock, it said, was “too sunlit to be called Gothic”.

The novel languished for a year or so – thereafter came a cadence of luck. In 1969 John Hooker, who had been operative as a publisher during Cheshire given 1964, was headhunted by Penguin. He stayed there for a 10-year army that saw him minister a good understanding to a Australian edition scene. Picnic during Hanging Rock was partial of his master devise for a clearly Australian front list. Little did he know how vast a partial this tiny novel would play in a landscape and story of Australian novel – and, indeed, of Australian film.

The late Australian radio presenter Patricia Lovell first read Picnic during Hanging Rock in 1971, several years after it was initial published. She found it in a ignored raise of books in a newsagent and suspicion it looked interesting. She took it home and review it in one sitting. She suspicion it was an unusual story. She didn’t realise, she certified after to a author Cathy Peake, that it would “change her life”.

After she put it down, she couldn’t get it out of her mind for several days. She wondered if it would make a good film. Inspired by a idea, Lovell wrote to Joan Lindsay to see if anybody had bought a rights. No, pronounced Joan. And then, no doubt intuiting a good business opportunity, Joan immediately asked if Lovell was meddlesome and soon invited her down to Mulberry Hill for a meeting.

Lovell knew she indispensable to beef adult a artillery before she could fly down to accommodate Joan. After all, her film CV wasn’t accurately extensive, and nonetheless her radio career was considerable (she’d been a horde on a ABC children’s show Mr Squiggle, a presenter for a stream affairs program The Today Show and an singer on Skippy and Homicide), it didn’t embody writer duties. She motionless to take a executive with her to uncover she was a vicious contender. But where would she find one? And who would do it?

During her time as a radio presenter on The Today Show, Lovell had interviewed a immature man called Peter Weir, whom she’d continued to admire as he determined his film career. She motionless he would be ideal for a project, even yet he was usually 27.

“Reading a book for a initial time,” he would after remember in another talk with Lovell for a mini-documentary constructed by Lovell called Recollections – Hanging Rock 1900 (recently enclosed in a special emanate of a director’s cut of a film), “it was overwhelming reading. It was a extensive confusion … we couldn’t wait to get to a stone to see if it was as good as it read.”

And so, in Apr 1973, Patricia Lovell and Peter Weir trafficked down to Victoria to accommodate with Joan during her home. Joan’s representative during a time, John Taylor, went with them. Although shaken during a awaiting of assembly a author of a book that he now desperately wanted to film, Weir bewitched Joan from a initial hello. As he remembers it, there was an present bond between them, combined over their adore for a novel.

Unfortunately, Lovell usually had a tiny volume in her bank comment when she met with Joan. The many she could offer for a holding choice on a shade rights was $100. Was that excusable to Joan, her representative and her publishers? To her relief, they all pronounced yes. It was, Lovell removed later, a “best dual days of my life”.

The subsequent day, Lovell and Weir trafficked adult to Hanging Rock. On a approach they got mislaid and finished adult coming a stone from a wrong direction. They incited in from a Mount Macedon side, and saw a stone straightaway, with a tiny cloud sitting on tip of it. Immediately, they sensed a eeriness of a place.

“We’d suspicion that we’d save income by maybe filming a story in a Blue Mountains,” Lovell has said. “I mean, we suspicion a stone is a rock, we know. Every mountain’s a same. It was usually when we gathering over from Mount Macedon and we saw it, this unusual tear of stone and trees … all on a own. We went totally silent. We knew thereafter that we could never film it anywhere else.”

Lovell was immediately uneasy. The stone seemed “so visitor to a rest of a countryside”. Her feeling worsened as a day went on. When a organisation arrived during a cruise drift during a bottom of a rock, her watch inexplicably stopped. It was a initial of many times this would happen, possibly during Hanging Rock or around Joan herself.

Karen Robson (Irma), Anne Lambert (Miranda), Jane Vallis (Marion) and Christine Schuler (Edith) in Peter Weir’s 1975 film.

Forty years later, scriptwriter Cliff Green remembers Picnic during Hanging Rock’s production group as one of a best he’s ever worked on. It was, he says, a duration of comprehensive joy. “I unequivocally enjoyed operative on Picnic during Hanging Rock,” he removed in an talk for my autobiography of Joan Lindsay. “The whole thing was a enchanting experience. The strength of a book unequivocally stood out in a possess quiet, elegant way. 

“I did ask [Joan] if a story was true. I’d been warned early on not to ask, yet we did anyway. Her stock answer was, ‘Some of it is loyal and some of it isn’t.’ In a end, we motionless that novella and contribution had been woven so inextricably together that it was impossible, even for her, to heed a difference. Writers use a crowd of threads of existence and novella to emanate their stories. As we review a novel, we saw a film unfold; we saw a demeanour of a film immediately. The novel is an implausible filmic square of work in itself.

“The initial 20 mins of a film were easy to write given it’s a loyal line, chronologically. But a impulse when Edith comes screaming down a hill, it becomes some-more of a formidable story. So many of it is atmosphere and setting. It’s unequivocally a book about a atmosphere of Australia.” 

After a categorical players sealed up, Patricia Lovell began to find appropriation of $440,000, that took her dual years. The income finally came from a multiple of players, including a Australian Film Development Corporation and a South Australian Film Corporation, whose investment was redeeming on a film being roughly shot in South Australia. It was a initial time a underline film had perceived such multifaceted support. 

With a principal group in place, Lovell, Weir and a other co-producers, Hal and Jim McElroy, got on with a pursuit of auditioning for a cast. Some of a characters were easy to brand and those roles filled first. Helen Morse was a ideal French teacher, Mademoiselle de Poitiers. Vivean Gray valid glorious as a restricted spinster and arithmetic mistress, Miss McCraw. Her opening was so clever that in 1995 her purpose in a film was commemorated with a stamp by Australia Post. Jack Fegan, a strange star of Homicide, was endearing as a pleasantly Doc McKenzie. Jacki Weaver was pleasant as a enthusiastic Minnie, one of a school’s bestloved staff members. A immature and large John Jarratt was relocating and noted as a sharp-witted stableboy-with-a-heart Albert. And Tony Llewellyn-Jones was privately praised in Variety for his purpose as Tom, a gardener. Other actors enclosed Dominic Guard as a categorical masculine character, Michael Fitzhubert, and Garry McDonald as Constable Jones.

Curiously, a roles of a schoolgirls valid to be a many formidable to fill. Searching for these girls became a prolonged and formidable routine given Peter Weir wanted them to have a graphic clarity of ignorance about them. It was usually when a group went to South Australia that they finally found girls who had that dreamy, innocent, 19th-century demeanour that Weir wanted.

Cliff Green recalls that operative with a expel that was stoical primarily of teenage girls came with a possess set of singular challenges. “Peter Weir had recruited these lovely, trusting 16-year-old girls out of very expensive schools in Adelaide. But it wasn’t prolonged before many of a girls identified with their roles. we mean, they were excitable many of a time! But Peter intentionally generated that – that turn of fad that those girls showed on a screen. It was talent of Peter Weir to use genuine schoolgirls – to collect that adult and interpret it into a film. It was a rarely charged film in lots of ways. Film communities live in unequivocally close environments, and everybody does rebound off any other – infrequently literally. But I’ve never struck that as strongly as we did in Picnic.”

For a categorical purpose of Miranda, Weir had expel a sharp-witted and fresh-faced immature lady called Ingrid Mason, yet thereafter realised after several weeks of rehearsals that it wasn’t working. (Ingrid Mason still seemed in a film as one of a other schoolgirls, Rosamund.) When he was left capricious about his heading lady, someone suggested that he cruise a immature singer called Anne Louise (Anne) Lambert.

“I was 19 and was operative in a [TV soap opera] Class of ’74 at a time,” recalls Lambert. “We met over coffee one day. Peter brought with him a coffee-table book of David Hamilton photographs featuring girls in white muslin tops, back-lit in gardens. That was a peculiarity and light he wanted to achieve. It sounded unequivocally interesting. we wanted a role. we unequivocally did. we suspicion we was finished for a part. But like Miranda, I’d grown adult in Queensland and was usually a republic lady and painfully shy. we had to overcome a lot of nerves to do a role.”

For a initial few weeks, Lambert remained capricious as to either she was personification a partial correctly. There were lots of takes and retakes and some-more takes.

The branch point, she says, came in a form of someone unexpected: Joan Lindsay. Lambert says Joan unequivocally brought her out of her bombard and desirous her to broach a conspicuous performance. “One day we were sharpened a sold stage – a one where we contend to a other 3 girls: ‘Look adult there, adult there in the sky!’ we couldn’t seem to get a stage right and Peter would usually say, ‘Do it again!’ Finally, he told us all to take a rest. While a expel and organisation went to get coffee, we wandered off into a bush, still dressed in costume, to try to lift myself together. we was unequivocally emotional: it had all been too much, and we was prepared to cry. 

“At that moment, in a dilemma of my eye, we could see a lady creation her approach towards me. She was walking opposite these severe rocks, so we waited for her to navigate them. we realised that it was a author, Joan Lindsay. we went to reason out my hand, yet she walked loyal adult to me, put her arms around me, and pronounced in a unequivocally romantic way: ‘Oh Miranda, it’s been so long!’ She was jolt like a leaf. 

“I wasn’t certain what to do, so we pronounced unequivocally politely, ‘It’s me, Joan; it’s Anne. It’s so good to accommodate you.’ But she discharged this with a call of her hand. She usually pronounced ‘Miranda’ again and clung to me, so we embraced her back. we cruise we both started to cry. It was unequivocally moving. And it was transparent she’d regressed into some partial of her past. To her, we unequivocally was someone she had known, somewhere in time. Right then, we felt that if Joan Lindsay believed we was Miranda, we contingency be doing okay. we felt that if she believed in me, we would be okay.” 

Despite a angst and worry, Lambert delivered one of a many spellbinding performances in Australian film history. And even she agrees that it was all value it, given a film is truly beautiful. “There was a sense, even then, that it was a special film,” she says. “We all felt it. It was a conspicuous square of cinema.” 

Joan Lindsay married father Daryl on Saint Valentine’s Day 1922, her favourite day of a year and a environment of Picnic. Photo: Courtesy of The National Trust

Filming commenced during Hanging Rock on Feb 4, 1975. The fire took a sum of 6 weeks. When it came to a visible elements, both Green and Weir took a lot of their impulse from Joan’s home, Mulberry Hill, with a walls of art, as good as from a rich, painterly layers of imagery in her novel. “Without question, we were both shabby by Joan,” says Green. “Knowing she herself had been a painter until she was in her mid-20s and thereafter going in and out of that house, that is like a museum of Australian paintings, influenced us all deeply. Unquestionably, that atmosphere influenced a essay of a screenplay in terms of a visible Australian Impressionist feel.”

But as a middle that Weir was regulating was film rather than paint, it took time to work out how to emanate a Impressionistic demeanour and feel for a screen. Finally, he found a resolution in a work of French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who is now deliberate to be a father of complicated photojournalism. Cartier Bresson had experimented with fixation several veils over a lenses of his cameras, and had detected that they combined an scarcely diffused, soft-focus quality. 

It was accurately what Weir was after. He and cinematographer Russell Boyd walked into a spousal emporium and systematic several pieces of marriage veil.

Placing these spousal veils over a lenses, regulating several density for opposite effects, combined a palpably dense, dream-like atmosphere that significantly combined to a mood of a film. The scenes roughly glowed, as if candlelit. And when a discourse – that in a initial partial of a film was mostly a array of peaceful whispers – was added, a characters seemed to exist as hazy, evocative total in a painting, rather than real, three-dimensional people.

Before filming began, Wendy Stites, Weir’s wife, spent a good understanding of time considering Edwardian dresses. The tea dresses were creatively going to be in pastel colours, yet after she complicated photographs of a era, she altered them to white. There was usually one problem: a fabrics seemed a tiny too white on film, so Wendy dripping them in tea to alleviate a brightness.

Patricia Lovell also pitched in to assistance with a costumes. “I remember branch adult to set during Martindale Hall [the environment for a novel’s Appleyard College] in South Australia early one morning and saying Pat there, during a ironing board, delicately ironing all a stiff white top sleeves,” recalls Anne Lambert. “She ironed many of a costumes any day. She was incredible!” Lovell spent scarcely 12 hours ironing petticoats, camisoles, frocks and sashes for one stage alone.

Peter Weir was a stickler for detail. For example, a daisy settlement in a edging trim of Miranda’s dress was enclosed given daisies were Miranda’s favourite flower. The moth bend was comparison given butterflies’ lives are pleasing and brief, as is Miranda’s. The muslin fabric was dictated to weigh levity of spirit. And in a stage where Irma earnings to a propagandize to contend goodbye, Irma’s flush velvet garment – a abounding blood-red – was dictated to symbolize not usually blood yet also sex, contrition and exhilarated passions.

Likewise, Stites’ courtesy to fact was so excellent that in a pivotal stage where Michael (Dominic Guard) clutches a square of edging that he finds while acid for a girls, a fabric was cut from a hem of Miranda’s petticoat.

While Lambert, as a executive impression of Miranda, was in many scenes, she wore usually one dress for a whole filming period. Amazingly, it survived a severe brush landscape – and, afterwards, she was authorised to keep it. Later, she pleasantly donated a famous cruise dress to a National Film and Sound Archives in Canberra.

From this angle, there appears to be a puzzling face forged into Hanging Rock. Photo: Courtesy of The National Trust

Australians loved Picnic during Hanging Rock. It wasn’t usually an Australian product by and by – a film that had been set in Australia, and constructed with Australian appropriation and an Australian expel and organisation – yet a theme was also singly Australian. It represented a country’s landscape, a people and a problems that faced a early settlers in a approach no other film had finished before. Even a characters seemed recognizable to many people, from a ocker fast child Albert to a pretended British headmistress. Everybody precious Miranda, of course.

The film premiered during a thereafter new Hindley Cinema Complex in Adelaide on Aug 8, 1975, and roughly immediately was hailed as a success. The film seemed to grasp a impossible: both a blurb and vicious success; a high-brow art-house film and a fantastic Hollywood production, unfailing for both a vicious art cinemas and ubiquitous release. The critics precious it, lauding a delicacy, a light and shade, and a suave construction.

At a time, Australians were hungering for something that was quintessentially Australian. They wanted books and films that hold adult a counterpart to a nation. It was ideal timing. 

Edited remove from Beyond a Rock, by Janelle McCulloch (Echo Publishing: $35), accessible from Apr 3.

source ⦿ http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/4570227/the-extraordinary-story-behind-picnic-at-hanging-rock/?cs=4067

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