The Film Picnic at Hanging Rock was a cinematic masterpiece that worked on a number of levels. The film interwined symbolizism and cinematic beauty to bring together a number of subtle themes trough out the film. Picnic at Hanging Rock challenged the viewer to understand it's meaning without obvertly stating it. This film gave an audience a chance to see a story told in a different manner than what most people are use to. Picnic at Hanging Rock strayed away from the usual Hollywood narrative and used symbolism and abstract form to tell a carefully crafted mystery that resisted closure.
One of the main themes of the film was the idea of constraint and restriction. Peter Weir showed this visually through out the film. The mise-en-scene of the film was often layered and crowded. The girls of Mrs. Appleyards school were shown to be restricted and forced to conformity. Each girl wore the same outfit and would cluster the frame.
Most scencs were shot with a short depth of field and would use rack focus. The use of the white dresses on the girls expressed the innocence that still remain in them while Mrs. Appleyard was shown wearing dark black outfits and shot from a low angles which dictated her power over the girls. Miranda on the other hand was shown alone and less constrained than the other girls. She often would be the only person in to fill the frame or would be leading the other girls in the wider shots. Miranda was visually represented as an angel like figure who was one with nature. There was often montage sequences that used Miranda and other elements of nature that helped conjure up these feelings. She was often visually compared to a swan through out the film by hinting or cutting to pictures of swans. She was always shot with a soft focus and warm colors which helped contribute to the characters beauty and innocence.
The overriding theme of sex seems to be the most prevalent of the film. There are many things that lead the viewer to believe that what has happened in this film was at least abstractly linked the idea of sexual freedom. The day of the picnic was on St. Valentines Day which each girl seem to be obsessed with the idea of love, often reciting poetry. Miranda is often erotised by the camera giving her character a sexy and intiriguing allure. Michael comments on this when he sees the girl crossing the water, he comments on her hour glass figure and goes so far as to follow her. Even Sara has an on admoration for Miranda that seems to extend farther than a sisterly relationship. Before the girls disappear we seem them slowly stripping their clothes as they walk off, the clothes represtening constraints of society. As the clues seems to pile up through out the film you come to no final conclusion and often become more confused. Why was the teacher walking up the hill with only her underwear, why were the pieces of lacy clothing found in a later search. It seems to become undeniable that the disappearance was sexually related. As a viewer you begin to question the idea of sex and perhaps the absubity that humans have placed on it. Weir use of dissolves and sublte symbolism such as a swan or flowers gives sex a naturalistic pure feeling. Weir juxtaposes this idea with the up tight feeling of the Victorian ethic. Mrs. Appleyard gives the feeling that sex is impure and wrong and should be prohibited at all cost. Weir shows us another example of how enjoyable love and sex can be by showing Mrs. Applleyards servant and her boyfriend lying in bed.