Picnic at Hanging Rock: Re-adapting a Classic.

When it comes to movies, I’m pretty much a stickler to the originals (so, I’m old-fashioned 😉 ). I tend to go by the rule ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t bother fixing it’. I believe that if a movie was originally well made, then why bother tampering with it? There are a lot of movies out there with the label ‘classics’ for good reason.

When I first heard they were making Picnic at Hanging Rock into a six part series for television, of-course my initial reaction was ‘Why?’ The movie made back in 1975, is one of my all-time favourite films and is a classic in Australian cinema history. I began to wonder if suddenly, like Hollywood, television was out of ideas.

Then came the how? How could it be stretched to six hours? Sure they could show parts of the book that weren’t in the film, and would that also include the ‘missing chapter’? I didn’t see how that could all be done to justify six hours of television.

It was then that I discovered that it’s not actually a remake, but a re-adaptation.


Again, why?

Personally, I don’t see the point. However, part of the reasoning behind it is that it offers a ‘fresh take’. In an effort to attract viewers, it would appear that some of the familiar characters have been ‘fleshed out’, so to speak. There is more emphasis on Mrs Appleyard and her background, and from what I’ve seen, it would appear that there is also more to other characters, including Miranda. Both within the film and the book, we are told all we need to know about these characters. The mystery, its domino effect and the rock itself is the focus and the appeal of the entire story. An article about the re-adaptation understands that ‘the enduring appeal may now lie in the unanswered question it poses’.

I have read many comments regarding this re-adaptation and it would appear that many people agree with my sentiments. People are very sceptical, believe that originals can’t be bettered and that there is a lack of creativity as this is the era of remakes. There were some points made about Peter Weir’s version that resonated. It is believed that in Weir’s version, much was left to the imagination; that the original had a spell-binding feeling that cannot be replicated.

There is no harm in younger audiences appreciating such films for what they are and it wasn’t all that long ago that I sat with my kids and watched the movie. Both my children are teenagers, so perhaps well within the age bracket this re-adaptation is aimed for. My children sat through the whole thing, and with the short attention span people have these days, it managed to hold their attention and neither one found it ‘boring’. At the end of the movie, my son said ‘that rock is evil’. Somehow, I don’t think the idea of the story being re-adapted will hold any appeal to either of them.

I saw Picnic at Hanging Rock when it first came out (yes, showing my age here) and as a young child it captured my imagination. This movie, above all others, made me the writer I am today (Alfred Hitchcock’s work a close second). Will I still watch it? I may sneak a peek at the first episode to get some sense of it, mainly because my curiosity usually gets the better of me. Whether it will hold my attention completely though, remains to be seen*.

The re-adaptation will have its world television premiere 6 May on Foxtel.

*Update: I did happen to watch the first episode and I stick by the opinions I have stated above. You can also read a review from The Guardian, which gives this re-adaptation 2 out of 5 stars.

What are your thoughts on re-adaptations? Do you believe that some films should be respected and left alone? Do you know of a film or television series that is better than the original? Will you be watching this re-adaptation?


Writing and the Influence of Film.

When I was about twelve years old I began reading in earnest, and read just about anything I could possibly get my hands on.  Stories that scared me always held my interest, or stories that kept me guessing with what might happen next.  Surprisingly, my love of stories out of the ordinary came from film.  It was film that made me a reader.

My family and I spent a lot of time going out to the movies and the drive-in (remember them?)  There was a time, during one of these family outings to the movies that changed my life. When I was about eight years old, we saw Picnic at Hanging Rock, and because it remained a mystery, it began to haunt me. People don’t just disappear; there had to be an answer.Psycho house

We also watched a lot of television. Perhaps it was because my parents were of an older generation that they watched the old black and white movies, introducing me to them as well.  It was the movies of Alfred Hitchcock that really grabbed my attention over all.  Watching Psycho, Rebecca and The Birds; that ‘edge of your seat excitement’, where I was always eager to find out what was going to happen next.  Unexpected plot twists or unhappy endings did not faze me at all; that was all part of the suspense.

The combination of both film and books has inspired me to write mysteries and horror with supernatural elements. When I completed my first short story, I gave it to my husband to read, who called it ‘macabre’.  It was only a couple of years ago, that as a member of the Central West Writers’ Centre, I applied for a consultation with Peter Bishop, Director of Varuna – The Writers House.  After having read the first three chapters of one of my novels, a vampire story, he said he was reminded of Alfred Hitchcock.  Having the film director influence my childhood, naturally I considered this high praise.  I knew I was onto something.

Movies today don’t hold the same appeal to me.  Apart from a few exceptions, I’ve seen a lot of them that are heavy on special effects and little on story.  I like a good story – that’s why I became a writer in the first place.

Image copyright Paramount Pictures