This old, warped paperback represents one of my biggest writing influences—film. While the novel is a marvel, it was the 1975 film version of Picnic at Hanging Rock that first captivated me.
Part mystery, part psychological drama, and with the haunting feel of a classic ghost story, Peter Weir’s masterpiece spoke to me in a way no film had before. It has a dreamlike feel that is both unsettling and enigmatic. The plot is ambiguous in places, the ending untidy. It changed the way I looked at “place” as a character, and it introduced me to the kind of open-ended mysteries that leave me tossing in my sleep. I knew this was the type of story I wanted to watch, read, and write—evocative and beautiful, but with an underlying darkness.
Nearly everything I write begins with a location that’s alive with ghosts (sometimes literal ones that eventually turn figurative) and has a romantic feel (despite little romance). And of course, there are the dead and vanished, and all those buried things. Many films have influenced my writing, but when I came across the book this morning, I remembered the power of this one.
While this post is about the film, I can’t ignore that it was a novel first, and author Joan Lindsay deserves applause for this haunting tale. The book is categorized as historical fiction, and it’s uniquely framed as a real life event, which gives it a distinctly dark feel.
Please note the film to which I’m referring is the 1975 version (not to be confused with the 2018 remake. I can’t speak for that one).
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