The inaugural episode of ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ aired this wednesday. The BBC mystery drama is a TV remake of a 1975 Peter Weir film. The pilot was very promising but for all its pomp and self awareness, it is rather surface level.
The pilot is a mixed bag, its hit and miss. There are elements that are really interesting but it just lacks certain components to achieve their desired effect. I can see where they are going with it but it isn’t connecting together just yet.
The producers are trying to create something Lynchian, however, it falls short because it does not have the depth or execution. Lynch’s work is actually quite clear and forthright with its plot events. It is the meaning behind them that is ambiguous. This misunderstood that, it was just frustratingly vague at times.
Despite that grievance, there were elements which were very effective and intriguing. The cinematography succeeded in creating an otherworldly atmosphere. Branches appeared to reach and creep with intent. Smoke which was kicked up by the carriage wheels, disipated into the trees.
The Australian jungle feels primordial and alien. There are some good uses of symbolism that you can catch on a second viewing. During a moment in the woods outside the school, the camera turns the world upside down. This gives a sensation of hanging.
The class photo scene also includes a shot in which their image is inverted, giving them the appearance of hanging upside down.
Although this all sounds very negative, I am well aware that this is just the pilot. TV shows often have a difficult time illustrating their direction in the first episode. This one may just need time to warm up.