Magazine article Screen International

'Picnic at Hanging Rock' Showrunner on Taking Inspiration from Kubrick

Magazine article Screen International

'Picnic at Hanging Rock' Showrunner on Taking Inspiration from Kubrick

Article excerpt

The BBC/Amazon series is based on Joan Lindsay’s novel and stars Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer.

‘Picnic At Hanging Rock’

Larysa Kondracki likes to quote a review of Picnic At Hanging Rock that on the face of it doesn’t seem particularly complimentary.

The limited series, on which Kondracki was showrunner and primary director, “teeter[s] on the brink between atmospheric excellence and stylistic overkill,” said The Guardian’s Australia edition when the first of the six episodes was screened for press earlier this year.

But you can see why Kondracki appreciates the review (besides the fact that it also says the opening installment keeps “on the good side of the divide” and that even watching it teeter is “a blast”). Because the up-and-coming Canadian writer-director clearly relished the chance to deliver a provocative, stylish and female-centric take on a classic Australian novel (written by Joan Lindsay in the sixties) previously made into a revered Australian feature (directed by Peter Weir in 1975).

“Yeah, we went for it,” Kondracki says. “But we had a lot of fun.”

The series, with Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer leading a young international cast, radically reimagines Lindsay’s Victorian era tale about the unexplained disappearance of three schoolgirls and a teacher during a Valentine’s Day excursion to an ominous landmark in the Australian bush.

Produced by FremantleMedia Australia for that country’s Foxtel pay TV platform, the show was picked up by Amazon for the US and the BBC for the UK and got a prestigious premiere in the TV sidebar of this year’s Berlin film festival.

For Kondracki - who broke through with her 2010 prize-winning feature The Whistleblower - Picnic is “really about control and rebellion. And the issues are entirely relatable today. Take away the corsets, and the fact that there are horses and not cars, and it’s like, you try and stand up as a woman and be true to who you are. It’s still pretty tough.”

The script for the series, mostly written by Australian playwright Beatrix Christian, was “very emotionally specific, but very open to interpretation,” says Kondracki, who personally directed the first three episodes. “It’s a tough script to nail into a certain genre: there’s comedy, there’s some horror, there’s some melodrama, there’s hysteria…”

So the director went for a Stanley Kubrick-influenced visual style, with heavily saturated colours and carefully composed framing, and a tone that owes something to teen movies of the eighties. …

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