WEIRDLAND: The Virgin Suicides & Picnic at Hanging Rock

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Virgin Suicides & Picnic at Hanging Rock

Kirsten Dunst in "Marie Antoinette" (2006)."Picnic at Hanging Rock" (1975) directed by Peter Weir.
Just as the morbid sisters of Sofia Coppola’s Virgin Suicides danced dreamily around their suburban prison awaiting their fates, so too the ill-fated girls of Peter Weir’s Picnic At Hanging Rock dance about, reciting poetry and whispering, dressed in ghostly white attire, as if they were already vapors wafting through the atmosphere.

Further foreshadowing the imminent mystery, one of the soon-to-be lost girls, Miranda, quotes Edgar Allen Poe, What we see and what we seem are but a dream within a dream".

Jake Gyllenhaal, Kirsten Dunst and Josh Hartnett at MTV Movie Awards, on 1st June 2003.

"Lux (Kirsten Dunst), age 14, is the boldest, as her explosive interlude with suave cutie Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett) results in her missing her parents’ curfew. The ensuing crackdown sends the girls into a spiral of despair, as they are taken out of school and locked up at home for weeks. The neighborhood boys’ distant friendship never can fulfill the idealized passions festering unsated in the girls’ minds, aches that shall be stopped one way or another.Bright and handsome photography go a long way toward establishing a mood of unsustainable orderliness. Coppola expertly employs a full arsenal of styles to create particular emotional contexts, including soft-focused fantasy shots, stop-motion film, and occasional quick-cut sequences. A haunting original score by Air works alongside period music. The director has such command of scenes that even Styx’s kitschy, catchy “Come Sail Away,” piped at full blast during a prom scene, results in a believably affecting moment of youthful awakening. Several other sequences are evoked with emotional, crushing perfection, most of them small, private instants of coming of age.
A grown-up Trip Fontaine, retelling his perfect night with the alliterative Lux Lisbon, is suddenly called by an offscreen voice to a “group meeting” and is never seen again.Visual attention to detail, on the other hand, is fascinating, with a lovely and meaningful title sequence as well as tenderly crafted bedrooms plastered in teenage iconography.A sequence where the boys and girls communicate by telephone, not speaking but simply exchanging songs that express their feelings, paints perfectly how near yet how far from each other they are kept. When Trip grins “goodbye” to Lux, the waves of emotion washing over Kirsten Dunst’s face are as unexpected as they are nuanced, bespeaking the movie’s entire theme in a few seconds’ reaction. Trip heads back to his car and, though the would-be lovers exchanged barely a look the entire night, sits panting in the dark, overwhelmed, a chillingly real portrait of the pangs of adolescence.Though Dunst is pitch-perfect as the most self-aware, afflicted sister, the entire young cast is effective, particularly Hanna Hall as the young Cecilia and Josh Hartnett as the disarmingly good-natured Trip."The Virgin Suicides is in many ways a modern updating of Picnic at Hanging Rock, Peter Weir’s 1975 classic about girls from a repressive Victorian schoolgirl who disappear during a picnic in the Australian wild. While that film took full advantage of the disappearances’ unexplainable nature, Coppola’s film is too fickle and heavy-handed to draw sustained strength from the girls’ suicides. The instants where everything comes together, however, are precious emotive land mines worth experiencing". Source:

"Picnic at Hanging Rock" (1975).

"Picnic at Hanging Rock" reminded me of the "The Virgin Suicides" in its theme of young beauty swallowed up by enigmatic forces, leaving others behind to wonder at it all. There is an interesting suggestion that the mountain might have freed the girls and Miss McCraw in some way from the constrictive expectations of gentile womanhood in 1900 (Irma is found without her corset, and Miss McCraw was last seen by Edith running up the hill in just her pantaloons). But the how and why of the disappearances are better left unexplained. What we are shown is what happens to people who live in the earthly world of struggle, pain, and passion when they are confronted with things they can't understand. The disappearances on Hanging Rock --- whether they represent nature, the paranormal, the divine, or merely death --- generate dread, frustration, awe, and even jealousy in those who are not initiated into their mystery. This is the flip side of the magical quest story that leaves behind an unnerving, but not unpleasant, sensation". Source:


giorno26 ¸¸.•*¨*•. said...

Stupenda K.Dunst....

Elena W said...

Kirsten is like Sophia Coppola's muse, and deservedly. In "The Virgin Suicides" she proved she has a gift for drama, when Lux is abandoned by Trip on the football field after their dance, it's one of the saddest scenes ever, and through her performance, Kirsten embodied that overwhelming loneliness.