Amazon has released the first trailer for its Natalie Dormer-led miniseries, Picnic at Hanging Rock. The series is another adaptation of the historical fiction novel of the same name about a group of Australian preparatory school girls who go missing during — you guessed it — a picnic at Hanging Rock. The result looks to be a visually impressive retelling of a compelling mystery, one that has some impossibly big shoes to fill.
Picnic at Hanging Rock was first adapted in 1975 by Peter Weir in what is a highly regarded near-masterpiece of a film. Haunting and dreamlike, Weir’s movie earned him plenty of praise and has since gone on to influence a number of films, and even television series, like HBO’s The Leftovers — especially the third and final season, which took place almost entirely in Australia.
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This new adaptation puts Dormer in the role of the Appleyard Ladies College headmistress, Mrs. Hester, and as shown in the new trailer, it looks as though there will be at least some updates to the story in terms of style from director Laura Kondracki. The rest of the cast is filled out by some familiar names, like Yael Stone and Samara Weaving, which you can see in the synopsis below.
“Natalie Dormer stars as Mrs. Hester Appleyard, the enigmatic headmistress of Appleyard College, a boarding school that she established for young ladies isolated in Australian bushland. Starring alongside Dormer as the three students who mysteriously vanish include Samara Weaving (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Babysitter) as Irma Leopold, a Rothschild heiress; Madeleine Madden (Tomorrow When The War Began, High Life) as Marion Quade, daughter of a high court Justice; and Lily Sullivan (Camp, Jungle) as Miranda Reid, the rebellious tomboy who grew up with four brothers on a cattle station. These girls have a strong bond and together resist the edicts of society. Other cast members include Lola Bessis (Swim Little Fish Swim), Yael Stone (Orange Is The New Black), Anna McGahan (Underbelly), Sibylla Budd (The Secret Life of Us), Ruby Rees (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) and Inez Curro (Little Heart).”
Remaking a critically acclaimed film is always a risky proposition, but if Starz’s recent miniseries retelling of E.M. Forster’s Howards End is any indication, it can be done in a way that is both respectful to the original work and the well-regarded adaptation. It also offers filmmakers a chance to deliver a new take on the material, one that potentially makes it appealing to audiences new and old. Whether or not Picnic at Hanging Rock will deliver the goods like Kenneth Lonnergan’s Howards End has remains to be seen, but if this new miniseries is a success, then we might be looking at the start of a new kind of remake frenzy.
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Picnic at Hanging Rock will be available to stream on Amazon Prime Video on May 25.