Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Peter Weir.
Starring Anne-Louise Lambert, Rachel Roberts, Vivean Gray, Karen Robson, Dominic Guard, Helen Morse, Jacki Weaver, John Jarratt.
Australia 1975 107 mins. Certificate: PG

Out now from Second Sight on Limited Edition Box Set 4K UHD and Blu-Ray / Standard Edition 4K UHD and Blu-Ray.


“What we see and what we seem is but a dream. A dream within a dream.”


Peter Weir’s much-admired adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s 1967 novel is one of cinema’s great enigmas – an extraordinary example of the terror of the unseen and the overwhelming dread of the unknown. Its opening title card - containing dates, locations and a “spoiler” of the ending – helped ensure the enduring myth of it being a “true story”. And its unresolved tale of blossoming female students vanishing at the eponymous imposing location on Valentine’s Day has proven a long-term influence on an eclectic range of films, from THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and WOLF CREEK (with which it shares the actor John Jarratt) to THE FALLING and THE VIRGIN SUICIDES.


Second Sight’s special edition may be a couple of years shy of the film’s 50th anniversary, still, it’s hard to imagine a more impressive representation of its ageless quality and the fascination it continues to inspire. Both versions' new 4K scan and restoration are a revelation, with the rejuvenated picture and audio enhancing the beauty and sustained, underlying fear. It has never looked or sounded this good: Bruce Smeaton’s score (with notable Gheorghe Zamfir pan pipe contributions) will have those neck/arm hairs standing to attention more than ever.


“It waited a million years, just for us…”


In addition to an unsurprisingly erudite but witty, delightful commentary from experts Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson, the bonus content has plentiful treasures. Mark Hartley’s outstanding two-hour documentary “A Dream Within A Dream” (2004) is the highlight: a comprehensive, by turns amusing and moving insight into the film’s production and legacy. It provides a rich sense of the Australian film industry’s status at the time of its production while showcasing participants not featured in the new extras, notably Weir and actors Anne-Louise Lambert and Helen Morse.


The anecdotes are compelling: we learn that Rachel Roberts, Appleyard’s strict headmistress, was intimidating on and off camera. We hear honest recollections of the challenges for the youthful main cast. The picture’s attention to detail and ability to spark multiple interpretations is captured. The subtle technical trickery (including altered frame rates and sound design) makes it ambience unlike anything else. Most fascinating are the differing views on Weir’s controversial “Director’s Cut” (around 13 minutes shorter than the theatrical – both are included), with Lambert resenting the changes he belatedly made. Decide for yourself.


The second disc has valuable archive content, notably a 1975 interview with the charmingly self-deprecating Lindsay, who reflects on a happy period defined by her book titled “Time without Clocks”. It remains characteristically evasive about PICNIC’s “true story” status. A TV feature from the same period has a very boyish Weir, among others, discussing the novel and its then-as-yet-unreleased adaptation. New interviews with cinematographer Russell Boyd, camera operator John Seale and actor Karen Robson explore the creation of that distinctively diffused / romantic look, the boundaries being broken by Australian cinema at the time and the overpowering heat and power of the location. Thomas Caldwell’s video essay “Something Beyond Explanation” covers significant territory in 23 minutes, including the film’s influence on pop culture in successive decades – notably the work of David Lynch.


The stunning-looking Limited slipcase edition includes a soft cover book of essays, the original novel, collectors’ art cards and gorgeous new artwork by Thinh Dinh. It will look incredible on your shelf and only increase your admiration of this remarkable, genre-transcending work.


“Everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and place”.


Steven West.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans