The past few days I decided to give a closer reading of Joan Lindsay's Picnic at Hanging Rock. Though my focus will be on the book, I'm placing this under film analysis as, by now, the book and film have become hardbound companion pieces. Not that it isn't easy to ignore the film and focus entirely on the book, but I consider the book to be essential reading in respect of the film.
To compare the book with the film and what they have produced separately and together is complicated by the fact that there exist actually two books. One is the book that Joan originally wrote, and then there is the book that was published, the editor having concluded it was best to excise the last chapter. The 18th chapter.
We run into problems when we take Lindsay's omitted 18th chapter into consideration, which was only released after her death. Do we include it in our study or are we also to omit it?
Below are the main section links of the analysis:
The 18th Chapter--How it is Both Essential and Not
The Problem of Hesperus and the Confusion of Longfellow's "The Wreck of the Hesperus" with Hemans' "Casabianca"
The Frenzied Attack on Irma Leopold
The Puzzle of the Pythagorean Theorem and the Hypotenuse as a Way Home
Nietzsche's Monolith and the Eternal Recurrence
Weir's Depiction of the Ascents of the Rock Compared with the Book, and the Wounding of Michael and Irma
The Problem of Irma
Miranda and Metamorphosis, The Butterfly and the Crab, The Beautiful and the Absurd
Daphne and Apollo-Python
On Spelling and Emeralds and the Demand to Forget
The Connection of Appleyard to Hanging Rock -- Ascents, The Watcher on the Hill, Flaming June, Sara Waybourne and Bournemouth, the Hanged Man
The Marie Celeste, The Spider and its Web, and the Clever Embroidery of Irma
Leda and the Swan and The Marquise of O
The Plot of The Marquise of O
Possible Relationship to Picnic at Hanging Rock
In brief, the plot concerns a group of Victorian teenage girls, Miranda, Marion, Irma and Edith, students at Appleyard, an Australian boarding school, who climb a great ancient rock during a Valentine's Day school outing, their schoolmates preferring to rest at its base. As they ascend, Edith, the only girl who has complained with the exertion, begins to consider her friends are behaving peculiarly. She becomes so alarmed she runs, screaming, back down the rock. The rest of the group disappears, never to be seen again, except for Irma, who is found unconscious days later. Lindsay's book, and Weir's film, explore the happenings preceding the ascent, the desperate search for the girls, and the effect of the mysterious disappearance on the school, two teen boys who had seen the girls as they began their ascent, and Sara, a girl who had not been permitted to go on the outing, and who we may interpret as having been in love with Miranda and/or profoundly attached to her as she is an orphan and Miranda has been her refuge of kindness in an otherwise bitter world. In the published book, as with the film, we never learn what has happened to the girls or a math teacher, Miss. McCraw, who had also climbed the rock.
The unpublished 18th chapter of Lindsay's book concerns what occurs after Edith runs away. The girls are all, with the exception of Irma, affected by a natural "monolith" they find on the rock, which so powerfully, magnetically attracts them that it causes them to feel they are turned "inside out". They pass behind the monolith and fall into their deep sleep. When Miranda wakes she sees a brown snake. Miss McCraw now clambers up. She is unrecognizable to them, just as they are to her, but no doubt she has pursued them because of her concern for them, she was their teacher and she will be their teacher to the end, through this transition from one state of being to another, instructing them on what is occurring. She has already stripped down to her core essence in a way that her pupils are still yet moving toward perhaps because the girls traveled up the rock together rather than making a solitary journey, as has Miss McCraw. Though each retains the essence of their personality, their connections to culture and past have entirely evaporated, they wholly concerned with the present moment. They throw their inhibiting corsets over the cliff and see them "stuck" in time. The group is now forever at high noon, a place of no shadows, of all light. They realize that they will "arrive in the light", and though they don't say where they will be arriving you know it won't be on the wagon heading back to Appleyard with the other girls. McCraw sees then what she has sought for all her life in a hole that is positive space rather than a void.
It wasn't a hole in the rocks, nor a hole in the ground. It was a hole in space. About the size of a fully rounded summer moon, coming and going. She saw it as painters and sculptors saw a hole, as a thing in itself, giving shape and significance to other shapes. As a presence, not an absence--a concrete affirmation of truth. She felt that she could go on looking at it forever in wonder and delight, from above, from below, from the other side. It was as solid as the globe, as transparent as an air-bubble. An opening, easily passed through, and yet not concave at all.
A snake appears, lying next a crack in the ground beside two enormous boulders, one balanced atop the other. Miranda touches the "exquisitely patterned" scales of the snake and it slithers away behind some vines. Tearing away the vines they find a hole in the ground and understand they are to follow. McCraw does so first, she saying that when she is inside and the girls hear a rap in the rock then the next is to follow. Becoming a crab, she flattens herself upon the ground and is thus able to slip through the narrow opening in the rock. When a rap is heard, Marion follows next, similarly flattening herself. With the next rap, Miranda enters. No rap follows for Irma, which is something I will write upon later, the reason for why this is. The hanging rock tumbles over the hole into which the three have disappeared. This doesn't answer as to why no tracks or clothing are found on the rock (perhaps because these things are all stuck in "time" as are the corsets) but it does explain why the girls and McCraw are never found.
My thoughts on the excised 18th chapter are that, though Lindsay was a proponent of letting people draw their own conclusions on the mystery presented in the book as it was published--and I don't imagine this was only a matter of not wanting to conflict with editor's choice and the film's mystery Lindsay--she also did intend the 18th chapter to be eventually leaked, that she didn't want her original ideas lost, but also that the book came, for her, to have two endings. The 18th chapter does not, as some state, lessen the mystery of what happens to Miranda, Marion and Miss McCraw, but it does limit the grounds of the mystery to the interaction of these individuals with the rock, which actually should be the conclusion reached in both the book, as it was published, and the film. Albert and Michael, the two boys who had seen the girls and briefly followed them, are quickly cleared of playing any part in the disappearances. This is not a murder mystery. It is partly an exploration of cultural conflict and the impact of Australia on the children of England imported there. The rock is indigenous Australia as versus Victorian colonialism and Victorian spirituality, and the effects of that time nearly three-quarters of a century on, for this was certainly a book and film of the 1960s and 1970s. The 18th chapter does formally weaken the book, at least as it was released. The writing is not as good. It wasn't finessed. What we have is probably an early draft. But the 18th chapter, so jarring as to be untenable for most readers, is also an important addendum that even further transports the material away from a romance. In support of her editor's decision, and then the mystery as established by the film, Lindsay probably didn't mind becoming a proponent of letting people draw their own conclusions as she believed without that chapter there was enough in the book, and film, to point people toward some version of a mystical conclusion, if not exactly. Not at all exactly (for who would imagine Greta McCraw metamorphosing into a crab). But it didn't need to be exact. Still, she did not destroy that chapter and room was made for it to emerge after her death, in all its seeming ridiculousness, the fantastic absurdity of the fates of the disappeared being so unanticipated by the sensibilities of the majority that the 18th chapter in itself would be even more mysterious for them than the book as it stands. In turn, Joan, the writer, appears absurd, even comical, with her conclusion as most receive it as beyond bizarre. Would Joan have minded appearing absurd? I doubt it. She certainly didn't mind appearing absurd after her death when she would be unable to defend the chapter. Joan didn't want what had happened to her characters to be lost; she desired those who searched to have something to find and ponder. But I imagine she also didn't want that 18th chapter to detract from what was most important, that the Victorian empire was no match for the rock, that not everything was explainable according to Victorian or contemporary Anglican perceptions, and that the ripples from the occurrence at the rock reached in all directions with unforeseen consequences. And by the occurrence at the rock, I think this also came to mean the book and the film. Inarguably, one of the mysteries of the rock was that Joan's fiction of what occurred there to all these characters became "real", many believing the story was based on a real happening, such was the strength and truth of the myth.
Now I know.
What do you know?
I know that Miranda is a Botticelli angel.
The French governess remarks on Miranda being a Botticelli angel, but instead we're very aware she's referring to the birth of Botticelli's Venus. This occurs as Miranda turns to wave good-bye as she goes to ascend the rock with the other girls, and even though she has promised they will not be gone long exploring the rock, as the audience who is aware the girls will disappear we see finality in that wave. In the book, the governess doesn't voice out loud what she now "knows" as she does in the film, which is love, for she sees in Miranda not death but the birth of Venus as she rides upon the waves onto the beach, emerging from the ocean. This birth or solidification of love occurs for several characters as a result of the disappearance, while for Sara the disappearance of Miranda is disastrous, as well for the cruelly unempathetic Mrs. Appleyard, the school's owner and director, her institution appropriately destroyed.
In the opening chapter, it's Sara Waybourne's failure to learn Longfellow's "The Wreck of the Hesperus" that causes her, of all the girls, to be denied, at the last minute, participating in the trip to Hanging Rock (location 165 in the Kindle version). This makes one wonder, also, what would have happened if she had been permitted to go, and Joan perhaps had ideas about that.
Hesperus is the evening star, the half-brother of Phosphorus, the morning star--these brothers conceived of by the Greeks when it was believed that the two planets were distinct from one another, then when understood they were one in the same they were dedicated to Venus.
While Miranda and her fellows are at Hanging Rock, back at Appleyard College Mrs. Appleyard tests Sara, expecting her to have learned her lines by heart by now. Sara protests she can't learn the poem as it's silly.
Appleyard. The name conjures visions of Eden, its serpent, the tree of knowledge, and the ejection from the garden, does it not?
"...You little ignoramus! Evidently you don't know that Mrs. Felicia Hemans is considered one of the finest of our English poets."
Sara scowled her disbelief of Mrs. Hemans' genius. An obstinate difficult child. "I know another bit of poetry by heart. It has ever so many verses. Much more than 'The Hesperus'. Would that do?"
"Hhm...What is this poem called?"
"An Ode to Saint Valentine". For a moment the little pointed face brightened; looked almost pretty.
"I am not acquainted with it," said the Headmistress, with due caution. (One couldn't in her position be too careful; so many quotations turned out to be Tennyson or Shakespeare.) "Where did you find it, Sara--this, er, Ode?"
"I didn't find it. I wrote it."
"You wrote it? No, I don't wish to hear it, thank you. Strange as it may seem, I prefer Mrs. Hemans'."
Location 558 in the Kindle version.
Joan, of course, knows that Hesperus is Venus. While the College, that evening, awaits the return of the girls from the rock, Joan even includes "Venus" in the action, pairing the happening at the rock with the only specific mention of "Venus" in the book.
...Minnie had lighted the lamps on the cedar staircase where Venus, with one hand strategically placed upon her marble belly, gazed through the landing window at her namesake pendant above the dim lawns.
It is just after 8 o'clock, when the carriage was to return from Hanging Rock, but it hasn't.
Some take it that Mrs. Appleyard's inadequate knowledge of English literature is being betrayed here and becomes the focus, she confusing Felicia Hemans' "Casabianca" with "The Wreck of the Hesperus". But, in the meanwhile, Felicia Hemans' "Casabianca" is spoken of during the climb up Hanging Rock (location 490 in the Kindle version). Miranda, Marion, Irma and Edith are resting in preparation for walking back down to the luncheon--they still plan on returning to their friends and the college, the dream time of the rock has yet to capture them. While they rest, Edith critically divulges that Sara writes poetry about Miranda. Irma replies, "Poor little Sara, I don't believe she loves anyone in the world except you, Miranda." To which Miranda defends Sara's love for her, informing the others Sara's an orphan, a revelation we later learn is a betrayal of Sara's trust, for Sara had only informed Miranda of this fact as she seems to be ashamed of her time spent in an orphanage and being unlike the other girls in not having a family. When Irma compares Sara to a "doomed" deer she'd once tended, and Edith questions her what she means, Irma replies with the first line from Hemans' "Casabianca".
"Doomed to die, of course! Like that boy who stood on the burning deck, whence all but he had fled, tra...la la...I forget the rest of it."
Like Sara, Irma has difficulty remembering poetry. That she here voices she "forgets" the rest of that poem is to be remembered later when she is unable to recover any memory at all of what happened upon the rock.
So the story of the memorization of a poem becomes a little more complicated than at first glance. We know from the exposition that Sara (and likely her classmates) was supposed to learn Longfellow's "The Wreck of the Hesperus", a poem about a girl doomed to die on a sinking ship, tied to the mast by her father in order to preserve her during a storm, then her father perishes before her and is unable to release her from the bonds which may or may not have destroyed her. It is a story of the father's hubris, for he was warned against taking his daughter on the ship, he was warned about the storm, but he had faith in himself as the sure captain of his ship, his destiny, and his daughter's life. It is also a poem that was inspired by a real life event, an 1839 blizzard in New England that destroyed 20 ships. One of those was the Favorite on which all hands perished, as well as a woman who was afterwards found tied to a mast. There was also a different ship called Hesperus that was damaged in the same storm though docked in Boston.
During the climb up the rock, Irma compares, however, Sara to the boy who dies on the burning wreck of a warship in the Hemans' poem "Casabianca". That child was also bound to a ship, this time through loyalty to his father who dies below deck during the night and thus never releases the child from his duty. Probably about the same time as this, back at the Appleyard College, Mrs. Appleyard quizzes Sara on if she has learned the verses but misstates and says Hemans rather than Longfellow. Sara doesn't catch this, and Hemans becomes linked with "The Hesperus" for the remainder of the conversation.
And, yet, back at Hanging Rock, Irma had trouble remembering "Casabianca", so the reader must remain confused as to what poem was intended to be learned, despite Joan stating at the beginning it was "The Wreck of the Hesperus", when Appleyard remembers it as by Hemans and Irma recalls "Casabianca" in connection with Sara, whom they had just been discussing as being herself a writer of poetry.
These events and confusions are connected in an intricate way that demands more than superfluous examination.
Mrs. Appleyard, fresh to Australia, is described as a galleon, another doomed ship, and represents English colonial imposition on Australia and its tragic disregard for the native people, the land, and its history. Alienated from nature, she embodies colonialism's companion cultural mores that infected the globe like a highly contagious virus, so that photographs from 1880 Australia are, in attire, demeanor, and sensibility, indistinguishable from photos of America's Kansans. The environment is expected to be subject to colonial culture rather than the individual being subject to the environment. She is both the empire that demands loyalty to the death and the child who has wholly trusted the empire and is unable to escape it. The requirement that the girls memorize these poems (one is English, one is American) in remote Australia, all the way around the world, speaks to empire and the fierceness of its preservation so that, as if hypnotized, instructors and children around the world learned such verses by heart, carving their brains with them into a kind of English countryside and attitude that they would carry with them everywhere, an attitude expected to preserve them from contamination by their alien new home and its indigenous inhabitants.
It may be that Sara has the surname Waybourne due the saying, "He who would all England win, should at Weybourne hope begin." In other words, Waybourne was a highly vulnerable site and was thus a place of concern and peril to the entire nation if not closely safeguarded. Is it any wonder that Mrs. Appleyard then has it in for Sara and that Miss Waybourne is so imposed upon to learn her verses. Poor Sara, in her contrariness, is as the vulnerability that could destroy a world. And so even though it's the disappearances of Miranda, Marion and Miss McCraw that sink the school, that the trip to Hanging Rock is balanced with Sara's being held back at the school, she having not learned her verses, plays also a part.
There are layers upon layers, and more to the poems than this. I checked to see if Hemans had written a poem on Hesperus. And she didn't. But she did. In the poem "The Voice of Spring", she writes of the hint of spring's arrival "In the groves of the soft Hesperian clime, to the swan's wild notes by the Iceland lakes..." But as spring arrives it finds things have changed. "I see not here, all whom I saw in the vanished year. There were graceful heads with their ringlets bright...are they gone? Ye have looked on death since we last met." Spring mourns that "they have gone from amongst you, the young and fair" and goes to join those missing, abandoning those left behind as they "...are marked by care, ye are mine no more, I go where the loved who have left you dwell..." By the time Easter arrives, disaster will be fully upon Appleyard College due the disappearance and presumed deaths of the girls and Miss McCraw. My contention is "The Voice of Spring" is referred to with the confusion of Hemans and Longfellow, Hemans becoming the writer of "The Hesperus", for "The Voice of Spring" foreshadows the disappearance of the girls and Miss McCraw. Also, in the poem the mention of Hesperus is directly followed by the image of the swan, and Miranda is consistently associated with a swan in both the book and the film. When Michael, also fresh to Australia, sees Miranda crossing a stream, she seems as through a graceful swan. Repeatedly in the novel she returns to him as a swan, which was sacred to both Aphrodite and Apollo, Aphrodite sometimes depicted as riding a swan-chariot.
Curiously, a book of poetry published in 1904 unites Hemans and Longfellow. The World's Best Poetry, edited by Carmen Bliss, has on page 184-186 Hemans' poem "Casabianca". The author's name is at the end of the poem, then directly following the name "Felicia Hemans", on page 186, is "The Wreck of the Hesperus". Just a fun little coincidence I enjoyed coming across and made me wonder if Joan's hands had ever come across the same volume.
"The Wreck of the Hesperus" and "Casabianca" appear again in Lindsay's book (and Weir's film) in the gymnasium scene when the girls attack Irma. Having been found alive, and recovered, she returns to the school to visit her classmates, but instead of their being happy to see her they turn violent. For whatever reason--perhaps only because she wears red during her visit--I've found that many people look upon Irma as being vain, haughty, even malevolent, when in the book (and in the movie as well) she is anything but. She had been devoted to Miranda, was gentle, a confused victim of fate but also a survivor. Repeatedly, she is given as overcome with feelings of love for all, and later will become a philanthropist. When she returns to the school to say her goodbyes, Mrs. Appleyard, furious with being deprived of such a highly profitable, wealthy student, harshly reprimands her for leaving the college, telling her she's unprepared, that she doesn't know how to spell. Strengthened by her experience in that the world is quite larger to her now than the small college, amazed especially by the pettiness of the reproof over her spelling, Irma declares the only good things she learned from the school were through Miranda, which would be the importance of love and compassion. When Irma goes down to the gymnasium, the girls are doing their exercises to a battle hymn, "The March of the Men of Harlech". Irma representing the unknown, which they can't abide, and the loss of Miranda as well as the destruction of their previously stable lives at the school, the girls storm her. After Mademoiselle rescues Irma and calms the situation, she finds Sara bound by leather straps to a long board, a sadistic punishment disguised as a treatment intended to cure her stooping. She had been forgotten in the storm, forgotten in the dim of the building, and as the building had emptied she had been about to be forgotten completely, left there in her prison. She is the girl bound to the mast in "The Wreck of the Hesperus", while her schoolmates, exercising to a battle hymn, remind more of the boy in "Casabianca" whose trained loyalty and subservience binds to the battle ship. Irma had recalled him on the rock and understood he was doomed, but Edith had no comprehension of this. Edith was an example of one who may have learned poems by rote memorization but harbored no understanding of them, which was actually a problem of that style of instruction.
The hysterical attack on Irma also takes on disturbing connotations when we consider that Irma is likely Jewish. Her last name is Leopold and her mother was a Rothschild. It's not only that Irma represents the mysterious, unable to remember what happened, that draws their ire. After all, though Edith did not disappear, she too ascended the mountain and emerged from her ordeal with no memory of what had frightened her, and was unable to recount her story with any sensibility. Still, Edith had been brought back into the fold and perhaps even better accepted than before. But Irma? What was her crime? That she couldn't remember? A girl so traumatized that she spent weeks recuperating? It was Miranda they had wanted to return, but it was Irma who had risen from the dead, a news they first welcomed, but is a joy that collapses by the time she enters their midst to say goodbye. One could even look upon Irma as becoming a Judas figure, a betrayer. But to whom? Those who disappeared, who were left behind on the rock? Or the girls at the school, who have paid for the disappearance not only by being deprived of Miranda, but are now living under much harsher rule than before, the book disclosing that they are now banned from even talking together when not in the presence of a governess.
Irma is reviled by the girls who are as ferocious as Bacchantes.
In the movie, in her red cloak and hat Irma does by all appearances become a mix of Red Riding Hood overtaken by wolves, and perhaps a symbol of a full-fledged, fully initiated, menstruating womanhood. During her recuperation, away from the sexual segregation of the girl's college, she even developed an intimate friendship with one of the boys who had found her, Michael. By virtue of this little experience, she has advanced beyond the girls, leaving them behind, as she is now doing physically, going to Europe. Irma could not, even if she wanted, return to the college. Her experience has made her no longer subject to its laws and sensibility.
Irma is not, however, the only one who has worn scarlet. In the book, when Edith is interviewed after the disappearance, she wears a red cashmere dressing gown. Again, one of the things that distinguishes Irma from Edith is that for her recovery she was taken to live at a cottage on the estate of Michael Fitzhubert's uncle. She was separated from them. She was removed from the miserable school. And the girls have no doubt heard rumors of a romance with Michael.
Edith, heavier than the other girls and rather stereotypically presented as clumsy and unattractive in both personality and appearance, is in fact one of Irma's most vociferous attackers. All accuse Irma of knowing and not telling what happened. Blanche accuses her of having always possessed adult secrets. Finally, Edith declares she will tell them what Irma won't. "They're dead...dead! Miranda and Marion and Miss McCraw. All dead as doornails in a nasty old cave full of bats on the Hanging Rock." Now, for all they are aware, this is the truth, so perhaps it is Edith's spite that causes the governess to slap her, telling her, "You are a liar and a fool." At which point a girl named Rosamund, in the book, begins praying to St. Valentine, for the intervention of love, so that the others will leave Irma alone and the girls will love one another. Genial Tom then enters, one of the workers, and the fight is over. Almost. The French governess, Dianne de Poitiers, sends the girls to get ready for dinner then threatens fellow teacher and governess, Dora Lumley, with bashing her with an Indian club unless she promises not to tell Mrs. Appleyard about the incident. "I am perfectly serious Miss Lumley. Though I don't intend to give you my reasons."
To me it's curious that Poitiers would call Edith a liar when she states that those disappeared are all dead in a cave, because this is the most logical end. Even in the 18th chapter we have the two girls and Miss McCraw disappearing into a hole in the ground and a boulder covering the hole over. But the 18th chapter provides also a metamorphosis so that McCraw, Miranda and Marion are not as they once were when this occurs, and are in a state of paranormal transition. The opportunity for a resurrection of sorts is denied the three with Edith's version, and we are nearing Easter, which is all about resurrection. The book making clear that all of the children have actually envisioned what Edith chooses to speak aloud, one of the girls remembers how the Bible speaks of the dead as crawling with worms and vomits, which sets them full into hysteria. Only one other reference to worms is in the book, also coincidental to Irma, and that is when Michael has been found delirious on the rock after searching for the missing. In the movie, Albert, after discovering Michael and bringing him help, is given by the mute Michael a bit of torn cloth from a woman's dress. After Michael is carried away, Albert desperately climbs up the rock and finds Irma. Instead, in the book, after Michael is found he is taken home and Irma is left to languish for another day. It is only realized Michael had come across something when, that night, Albert goes through the same notebook from which Albert was tearing pages for "flags" he left on bushes on the rock to mark his path. Opposite a page with the statement "worm powders", Albert finds the notation, "ALBERT ABOVE BUSH MY FLAGS HURRY RING OF HIGH UP HIGH HURRY FOUN". In the book, Albert then rouses help and returns to the rock to begin the search again.
The bible verse the vomiting girl recalls in the book would likely be one of two below.
And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.
And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
As Tom, whose appearance stops the hysteria, has just had his teeth removed and is now toothless, arriving from the dentist, I'm inclined to think that Joan put some considerable thought into this and that toothless Tom's quelling the howling of the girls, following the vision of the worms, has to do with the word for worm in the Old Testament, coming from a word that means also "to blurt or utter inconsiderately". (For instance, Ginsberg's "Howl" made use of this.) The word is one used often with the ellipsis of 'shaniy', as a crimson grub worm, ShNI meaning crimson.
ShN means tooth and is associated with fire, ASh, which is why it is interesting that this episode begins with the worm, followed by descriptions of gaping mouths exposing the teeth and tongues of the girls, overwhelming poor Irma, and ends with the appearance of toothless Tom assuaging all, he described as an angelic messenger sent from heaven in response to Rosamund's prayer for love and kindness.
I may be completely off base in these associations in the above paragraph (and am prepared to be, I'm not bound to them) but present them because there is also the appearance of Manassa, a town, in the book. The "hell" of Mark's verse is Gehenna, which was considered especially cursed as it was said some of the kings of Judah sacrificed their children there by fire. Two names associated with the sacrifice are the kings Ahaz and Manasseh. I will return to this idea of Manasseh later, for "Manassa" is present in the book, and the idea of forgetting (Manasseh means to forget) is repeated often.
Wikipedia states in Jewish folklore the valley had a "gate" which led down to a molten lake of fire.
What is Hanging Rock but a violent outcropping of lava rock (to be equated with the fires of Gehenna), and how do the children access it on St. Valentine's day but by a gate. It was Miranda, an "experienced gate opener on the family property at home" who had climbed down from their carriage to open the gate to Hanging Rock, and as she did so a flock of parrots came out screeching overhead, startling the horses.
The 18th chapter version of the disappearance of the ecstatic girls and McCraw contrasts greatly with what seems to be represented here, the hell of a place associated with the sacrifice of children fitting in well with the necessity of the children committing to memory the poems of the boy who loyally burns to death on the ship and the girl lashed to a mast, both virtually sacrificed by their elders. The poetic choices that communicate British imperialism and the crushing of its own children in its traditions and obligations, the "Voice of Spring" of Hemans that so mourns the disappearance/death of children that spring abandons the living, become connected with the stories of the sacrifice of children during the reign of Manasseh, visions aroused of the place that was accursed due to those sacrifices, Gehenna. In the presence of Irma, as Easter approaches, a time of crucifixion, death, and hope for renewal, the girls are reminded of a celebration of love and freedom at Hanging Rock that turned into horror and continues to terrify, their companions ascended into the unknown, they vanished entirely, with no viable explanation from adults, and the girls sense now a spirit of sacrifice in the silent mysteries and the threat of worms, they betrayed by elders and gods, for Miranda and Marion must certainly be dead, and they too shall die as well some day.
There are many things that separate Irma from the rest of the girls. She is fabulously rich. She is one of the more beautiful. Before, she was one of their number. Now she is not. She was a child but has freshly moved into the secret world of adults. Easter quickly approaches and those who disappeared have not been returned. If Irma is Jewish then the girls may also be turning on her as representation of a failed Christ. In the poem, "The Wreck of the Hesperus", the girl tied to the mast prays to "Christ, who stilled the wave on the Lake of Galilee". But she is not saved. Irma was rescued but Miranda and Marion were not. Irma returned, but they are not rescued, still caught in the prison of the school they despise. With no answers from the adults as to what happened, they beg of Irma in their hysteria for her to tell them the truth, for not only did she survive, though she is newly crossed over into the adult realm she can possibly reveal to them the secrets of the adult world. But she can't help them in their despair. And this girl who was closest to the mysteries, to death and the eternal, is then one on whom they turn in serious and dangerous rage.
Which articulates one of the despairs of the Angle-European Christian, the Jew who is not a Jew. Though the Anglo-European Christian has received the promise of Christ, Christ has yet to return. And they will never be as close to god as the Jews for the Jews were first chosen, the first children of their god. They will never be as close to god as the Jews as they will always be the adopted ones, grafted into the tree of life. Working from a traditional church stance rather than a mystical one, they will never be at the "family" table.
It's telling that in both book and film Christianity is largely absent, however assumed to be the defacto religion, which it would be, and that Rosamund can only think to pray to St. Valentine, not an all-encompassing monotheistic god, not the sacrificed son of the monotheistic god who has either failed them or is dormant. Valentine seems less to be built on the church version and the Roman then a syncretization with Dionysus and the predominately feminine Bacchantes who in their revels are depicted as wild, unbridled. As Dionysus rules unbridled passions, then it is the Dionysus-Valentine who Rosamund believes has also the power to quell the passions and reunite with love.
In the next section, I compare the three who descend into the hole, the hanging rock then covering them over, with the three Marys who go to the tomb on Easter morning to find the rock of the tomb rolled away. Irma, as one who is in a sense rejected as she wasn't allowed into the hole, has as her principle injury some damage to her hands that shows she had been desperately scratching or digging at something. She might be separated out as the non-Christian, the Jew who didn't participate in the mystery of the open tomb, in as much as it was shut to her. If this is there, this is not Joan condemning her for indeed Joan ultimately provides a beautiful reason in the book for Irma being left behind and it is one of a couple of things that end in linking the character of Irma with Joan. Instead, I am examining why Joan would have chosen to have Irma be perhaps Jewish, and the reason for the hysteria against her. One thing that comes to mind is the holocaust. Joan's sister, Mim, had married a philologist named Hans Pollak and in 1938 Joan visited her in Austria, which was the year he was "suddenly retired by the Nazis in consideration of my Jewish blood". In 1939 they migrated to Australia to take refuge there, but first made their way, penniless, to London. Hans had siblings and nieces and nephews. I'm unaware if any died in the holocaust.
Hans Pollak's uncle on his mother's side was Leopold Pessl. His sister, Margarethe Grete married Dr. Rudolf Bum who had a sister named Leopoldine Lowenthal. Margarethe and Rudolf seemingly also fled to London in 1938. I'm not suggesting that the name Leopold might have been borrowed by Joan from this family, for Irma, but it was in the family and this seemed notable.
I had the feeling there might have been an intimate reason that Joan crafted Irma to be someone who was possibly Jewish, so wasn't surprised to find she had a Jewish brother-in-law.
Here we have the horrifying side of Hanging Rock as its shadows stretch long and threatening over Appleyard College. Now, for another version, which is instead a perspective of universal harmony.
It's clear from not only the 18th chapter, but the attitude of the girls as they ascend Hanging Rock, divesting themselves of shoes and stockings as they go, that Joan has made, in her story, an attempt to bring the disappeared ones into her comprehension of Australian Aboriginal dream time (or a version of it), but as a means of doing so she also utilizes classical mythology, in which metamorphosis played strongly. Ancient Christians and Jews weren't turned into deer, cows and swans in their myths, but Greek and Roman mythology has many such examples. Joan also relies on a combination of philosophy and esoteric mysticism for a kind of scientific validation, for if the vanguard of science is always "magic" to the uninitiated, whereas Miranda is the voice of love, Greta McCraw and Marion represent ancient philosophy or logic opening itself to the possibles availed by the dream time of the rock. Or that is my best way of putting it at the moment.
The indigenous landscape is dangerous to the non-indigenous through its conquering of the foreigners by conforming them to the landscape's spirit or destroying them.
Initially, it seems peculiar that McCraw and Marion would be seduced by the magic of Hanging Rock, that their mathematical minds don't react in horror, as with Edith who is distinguished as being irrational, their very opposite. Instead, a devotion to curiosity drives them. Plus, math, numbers, figures, are a universal language and so Joan represents them as being able to enter a dialogue with the rock and dream time. But their transformation isn't without its difficulties, especially so for McCraw who becomes close to a medium for the rock, such is the extent to which she leaves behind the trappings of her self which must be inessential to her core. In the 18th chapter, by the time we see her she is already much changed and struggling her way uphill to the girls, gasping, "Through", as if fighting with all her strength into this new atmosphere as she leaves behind the old. Even she says, realizing how she has stripped down, that the pressure on her physical body must have been "very severe". The extreme effort required of her, to reach her pupils, is to be compared with Michael's in his struggle to find Miranda (instead discovering Irma), his only conscious thought as he crawled over the boulders being, "Go on!". He has a dream on the rock, and in his dream his legs become useless as he swims through a viscous green water that threatens to choke him. He realizes when he comes to that it is his own blood he has tasted from a new and inexplicable head wound, but he almost has no comprehension of the wound as he has had simultaneously an all-consuming realization that drives him on, he "knows" someone is there, and believing it is Miranda he forces himself to continue climbing, assured of a breakthrough. Immediately injuring one of his legs, it becomes as useless as in the dream, just as Greta McCraw has no use of her legs in the end which become a kind of tail as she vanishes into the ground in the 18th chapter. Even Mrs. Appleyard has a similar dream of easily cutting through the water like a fish with her late husband, using neither legs nor arms, at approximately the time of the happenings on Hanging Rock, but she is woken by the sound of a lawn mower and then checks with Sara to see if she has yet learned her poetry.
Christianity and Judaism have the snake that invites one to taste of the fruit of knowledge in the garden. Australian Aboriginal myth has its own snake, the rainbow serpent. The girls had been warned by Mrs. Appleyard to beware of the dangerous snakes on Hanging Rock, and of course a snake must enter the picture as a guide. In the 18th chapter, a snake reveals to Miss McCraw, Marion and Miranda the hole into which they will disappear. There is no question about it, they must follow the snake, which Appleyard had warned them about, and that it was dangerous. Associated with water, the rainbow serpent of Australian myth may have a relationship with Miranda as she is later described as a "rainbow" and is also the embodiment of Venus. We may also have a connection with Marion, whose name in Hebrew means "bitter waters". The significance of water in association with the rainbow serpent may account for the watery dreams of Michael and Mrs. Appleyard, and, at the end of the 18th chapter, Miss McCraw's transformation into a crab-like creature, the kind that "inhabits mud-caked billabongs", which is the form by which she enters the hole. Again, concerning the waters, it is interesting that the three who go down the hole are known best by their names that begin with M: Miranda (despite her importance in the book she is never provided a last name), Marion Quade (who has, in a way, a mathematical last name, "quade" meaining "four"), and Greta McCraw. When McCraw appears, in the 18th chapter, she is only known as McCraw. M in the Hebrew is Mem, the letter of water, of the divine wisdom. The three Mems of Miranda, Marion and McCraw remind of Mary, Mary of Clopas and Mary Madgalene, the three women at the biblical crucifixion, all women whose names are watery. Again, there are traditionally three Marys at the tomb to whom Christ is first revealed upon the resurrection. Just as the three Marys appeared at the tomb to find the stone covering it rolled away, so too do these three enter the hole beneath the hanging rock which then descends and covers again the hole that had been revealed them. If Joan had a taste for the tarot, mem is the letter of the 23rd path, the 12th card, that of the Hanged Man, the mystic or traitor. The Judas or the one who is in the quiet repose of the reception of a great awakening. If only by their names would Edith Horton and Irma Leopold have not been candidates for the three Mems, though Irma made a close swipe with her name, coming from Emma, a Germanic name meaning "world". It at least had a mem in it. The letters of the name Irma are also contained in both Miranda and Marion. In Irma, Miranda and Marion we find Mari.
When Greta McCraw turns into a crab, she still is McCraw, if Joan was thinking of "craw" as in a "crayfish", from the Frankish krebitja, similar to to the Old High German krebiz, crab. This may explain why Appleyard dreams she is a fish swimming with her husband, for Appleyard's relationship with Greta McCraw is revealed as being, if not romantic and sexual, psychologically and emotionally marital. And they may be indeed romantically involved.
Aboriginal Australians are absent in Joan's story, exempting the one tracker who is brought in but fails to be any help in finding Miss McCraw, Marion and Miranda. But rather than being non-entities, it is by their absence they loom large throughout the novel. Weir, in his film, communicates an enduring Aboriginal possession of the land through capturing gigantic "faces" sculpted in the rock, which were even spoken about in interviews on the film and taken seriously as an overwhelming presence. The standard European concept of a linear timeline upon which one only incessantly moves forward is foreign to the Aboriginal conception of time that is bound up with the ever-present Dreamtime in which the past is ever ongoing. I'll not go into detail on the different conceptions of time, but this was a subject that fascinated Joan, and she likely felt that subject calling to her. She spoke of how her mere presence stopped watches, she couldn't wear one, and she didn't care for keeping time, thus her autobiography Time Without Clocks. (Those who do stop watches perhaps are inclined toward certain mystical conceptions of time.) In the novel time is literally stopped in its tracks by Hanging Rock. First Hussey, their driver, realizes his watch has stopped at high noon. McCraw realizes the same and suggests it has something to do with magnetism. Miranda no longer wears her "pretty little diamond watch" over her heart, while Irma states if she had Miranda's diamond watch she would wear it always, "even in the bath" and embarrasses Hussey by forwardly inquiring of him if he wouldn't do the same. Irma is not asked if she has a watch, and her remarks make it sound as though she doesn't have a diamond watch else she'd not envy Miranda her own, but later, after her rescue, when she is invited to lunch at Michael's uncle's home, she wears a tiny diamond watch. Mike warns her she must be punctual, but he purposefully misses the luncheon and excuses himself with a note stating that he had forgotten to consult his watch.
Luncheon at Lake View was at one o'clock sharp. Irma, warned by the nephew that unpunctuality was a cardinal sin in a visitor, smoothed out her scarlet sash in the porch and glanced at her tiny diamond watch...
Irma had, the day before the dinner, told Michael that Miranda used to say everything began and ended at exactly the right time. However his fascination with Miranda, he was certainly falling in love with Irma, the two bound by their experience on the rock, but this reminder of "the right time" seems a spur for his rejection of her. One wonders if Joan, in her own imagination, had Michael watching from afar to see if Irma would arrive punctually or be delinquent. Had she been delinquent, would he have not abandoned the romance? As two who neglected their watches, who weren't trapped in the Anglo-European prison of obligation to time, would they have remained together?
In the 18th chapter, Miranda remarks that they will arrive in "the light" as they are now perpetually at high noon, a place of no shadows. This is perhaps Joan's version of an Australian Aboriginal rainbow snake receiving the three wholly back into the fluid dream time, for which Irma is not ready. Not that she hasn't felt an ecstacy like that of the others, for she has and was even compelled to dance, and not that she isn't prepared to enter the rock, for Irma is, like the children of the Pied Piper, one who will follow the trusted Miranda even into the ground though out of the four she is the only one to be overcome with fear. She must finally keep asking what it is that the others are experiencing that she isn't, which began when she didn't feel the same pull of the "monolith" that so profoundly attracted the others. As they enter the rock, she begs for them all to stop so they may return home, yet it is obvious that if she was permitted to enter the rock, to follow, she would. But she is not permitted, for after the others disappear into the hole in the ground, the hanging boulder above falls down and covers the hole, Irma adamantly denied access.
We know none of this through the movie. The book, as it was published, doesn't let us in on the knowledge of a snake leading Miranda, McCraw and Marion to the hole down which they will disappear. But we do know enough to make a guess that their disappearance is mystical, because of their dream-like attitude, because of the stopped watches, and because of Pythagorean's Theorem.
Miss McCraw, on the way to Hanging Rock, notes that theoretically there should be no reason for them to return late back to the college. She points out that their journey thus far had been composed of two sides of a triangle, they having made a sharp right angle turn outside Woodend (where the girls were finally permitted to remove their gloves, only as they drew away from civilization), which meant the sums of those sides would be greater than the hypotenuse. She posits that instead of returning the way by which they came, they should travel home by way of the third side of the triangle in order to get there the more quickly.
Rather than have this conversation in the film, Weir instead supplies a visual of a triangle while they are picnicking (and also while they are traveling to the rock, for they pass a triangular watering hole at the beginning). After Marion, Miranda, Irma and Edith have left to climb the rock, when all the girls who remained at its base eventually take their afternoon naps, McCraw, with an air of either curiosity or uneae, looks from a page of her math book to the rock. We have the visual of her eyes moving to the rock via a mathematical theorem concerning a triangle and circle. It is a problem on page 221 of Sidney Luxton Loney's 1893, Plane Trigonometry, An Elementary Course, Excluding the Use of Imaginary Quantities.
Below are some of Weir's other triangles.
Near the beginning, he pairs Marion, cleaning the circlets of her glasses, with an equilateral triangle enclosing a shell shape in her window.
Mrs. Appleyard, in her study, is observed with a red equilateral triangle behind her that serves as a frame for a picture. We are never given a good close-up of it, but there appears to be a woman on the left and perhaps a child on the right. The triangle also can be thought of as framing a circle. This frame remains on her mantle throughout the film.
Weir has the flaps for the very vehicle in which the girls will travel to Hanging Rock manifest a triangle. It travels a circular path.
The triangular waterhole at the beginning of their journey to Hanging Rock rests apart from but alongside a sharp bend in the road.
There are other triangles as well, such as the pediments above the windows at Appleyard College. Do we include those? And there is a most notable triangle that I've not included in this section but will get to later.
Joan describes Miss McCraw as being angular, shaped like a flat iron, and when she is fully divested of all but her underwear in the end she is revealed as being triangular in shape. She is essentially math. On the other hand, when Irma leaps over the stream on her walk up to Hanging Rock with the others, Albert remarks that she has an "hourglass" shape, which again aligns her with time. That this comment was in the film but not in the book suggests Weir perhaps understanding that Irma's lack of antipathy for keeping time separated her from the others who disappeared.
A Mason of Queensland, Australia writes on the sacred geometry of Pythagorean's Theorem, which is important to freemasonry:
According to Plutarch (46 - 120 C.E.), the Egyptians attributed the sides of the triangle in this fashion. The vertical line was of 3 units and attributed to Osiris. The horizontal line was of 4 units and attributed to Isis. And the hypotenuse was, of course, 5 units and attributed to Horus, the son of Osiris and Isis. It is noteworthy that Plutarch studied in the Academy at Athens and was a priest at Apollo's temple at Delphi for 20 years. In the myth of Osiris and Isis, Osiris is killed which makes Horus the Son of a Widow and links him with Hiram!!
The units of the triangle's side are significant. The three units of the Osiris vertical have been attributed to the three Alchemical principles of Salt, Sulphur and Mercury. All things are manifestations of these three principles according to Alchemical doctrine. The four units of the horizontal line of Isis relate to the so-called four elements: earth, air, water, and fire. These are of course the four Ancients. The ascending Horus line with its five units represents the five kingdoms: mineral, plant, animal, human, and the Fifth Kingdom. This is the Path of Return. The ascending line finally connects back up with the Osirian line. The Fifth Kingdom symbolizes the Adept as one who has consciously reunited with the Source of all Being.
This is the Path of Return. And such is the path of return that Miss McCraw had suggested they take, mystifying the others, then followed up with some quip about how the mountain had come to Mohammed and now the mountain had come to Mr. Hussey, the driver of their wagon.
When Mr. Hussey realizes his watch has stopped, the French governess is unable to check her own as it is being repaired at a shop in (drumroll) Golden Square. Again, Pythagoras, math, the golden ratio. Later, when she realizes Miranda is a Botticelli angel, she announces, "Now I know!" Greta asks her, "What do you know?" Rather than answering, Dianne privately muses it would be "impossible to explain or even think clearly on a summer afternoon of things that really mattered. Love for instance, when only a few minutes ago the thought of Louis' hand expertly turning the key of the little Sivres clock had made her feel almost ready to faint..."
Greta would have understood if Mademoiselle's entrancement had been described in terms of math. In fact, Tom, the handyman, crafted a joke valentine for her of squared paper covered with sums. "She had received it with dry approval, figures in the eyes of Greta McCraw being a good deal more acceptable than roses and forget-me-nots. The very sight of a sheet of paper dotted over with numerals gave her a secret joy...they could be sorted out, divided, multiplied, re-arranged to miraculous new conclusions." One has the sense that Dianne de Poitiers' heart is being fixed by the repairman whom she will marry on Easter, their romance spurred by the drama of the disappearance of the girls, it likely their engagement would have been a protracted one if not for their disappearance. So, too, the housemaid, Minnie, and her lover, Tom. It's after the disappearances that they as well become engaged to be married on Easter (Minnie soon realizes she is pregnant) and leave the service of Appleyard College. The short route home for these two couples begins that day, a physical one bound to romantic, worldly love. Whereas Greta, Marion and Miranda enter into the eternal light of noon, their loves being abstract.
If at first it is difficult to comprehend why McCraw and Marion are the ones found by this dream time and so fully acquiesce, with only a little consideration it should become even more difficult to understand how Miranda might be so easily swept away. She is loving and beautiful almost to a fault in that she is conspicuously so in both book and film, but especially in the book. She is compassionate, engaged and involved with others. And yet she appears to willingly abandon herself to a mystery that has catastrophic ripples, at least in human eyes--the ensuing miseries of the families of Miranda and Marion, the death of poor Sara, as well as the deaths of unsavory characters such as Mrs. Appleyard, Miss Lumley, and her brother. With or without the 18th chapter, the impression is had of Miss McCraw, Marion and Miranda permitting themselves to cross or be carried across a boundary of no return, Marion and McCraw the two most intellectual of the characters, while Miranda represents love, the heart as one's spiritual guide. Miranda does warn Sara, beforehand, that she (Miranda) will be gone soon and so Sara must learn to love others. This assumes premonitory dimensions in the film even before the disappearances occur, while in the book this bit of history isn't disclosed until much later, but Miranda is also a senior who would, indeed, soon be leaving school, and the younger Sara was going to have to learn to live without her. Though the movie sets up a possible sexual context for their affection, and the book allows that there are no possible (male) suitors for the girls until they go into the world, the book makes clear that Sara is the youngest student at Appleyard, being only thirteen, and her relationship to Miranda, though intense, is that of a young orphan who has placed all their trust in one individual. Had Sara heeded Miranda's warning, she would have survived the prospect of being returned to the orphanage when her guardian failed to pay her tuition on time. She was no sooner dead than her guardian wrote that he would be picking her up for Easter vacation, and had that not occurred the arts teacher had previously written Sara insisting that she take refuge in her own home. Though the arts teacher's letter didn't reach Sara in a timely fashion (delays drive much of her sorrow), it would have eventually. Joan seems to want to have shown that Sara had loving, caring recourses to which she closed herself by responding principally to Appleyard's hatred rather than to the love expressed by others.
But she too ends up arriving "in the light", as with Marion, Miranda and McCraw. When Sara dies she visits her brother in a vision or dream that makes his dark room bright as day. However, she has had to come a "long way". Perhaps she has had to come the long way because the "short route", her return home, had already been taken and she had to travel the longer sides of the triangle to reach Bertie.
Stepping back to the relationship of Sara and Irma, and the lesbianism that seems to be in the film, less so in the book, Weir says he was shocked when these relationships between the girls and Mrs. Appleyard and McCraw were interpreted as lesbianism, that this hadn't been on his mind. Perhaps this is so. But he also has Sara as being on level ground with Miranda age wise and Sara's pining appears to be something other than in the book.
All [the Valentines] were madly romantic and strictly anonymous--supposedly the silent tributes of lovesick admirers; although Mr. Whitehead the elderly English gardener and Tom the Irish groom were almost the only two males to be so much as smiled at during the term.
Either the Valentines were crafted by Santa or the girls were expressing affection and even crushes, the sexuality fluid, some purely platonic and others not. Joan makes room for speculation but the fact they're all anonymous may be her way of limiting things with no directly expressed avowals. But this isn't the case in the film. Miranda reads her valentine that is given her by Sara, while Sara sits eagerly and devotedly by, seeming pretty clearly lovesick. The other girls read valentines that also seem to have been given them by those who rest nearby silently listening. The school is steeped in sensual feeling. Whatever will happen when the girls are unleashed into a mixed sex world, as represented in the film and book they are all vestal "virgins" of love who are apart from the "masculine" world, protected from the masculine world with their being housed at a girl's college where they are somewhat ironically being educated for marriage, to fill a particular kind of Victorian role in marriage, and are expected to enter marriage with their "virtue" intact. Rather than expressing an interest in Michael or Albert, who are nearby at the picnic area, the girls retire among themselves. An exception is Irma, who with some gentle forwardness plays with exercising her sexuality on the elder (and quite safe) Hussey, embarrassing him when she states she would wear such a watch as Miranda's always, even in the bath, then asking if Hussey would, which is to invite Hussey to imagine her in the bath and placing herself in the position of imagining him in his bath, and so he becomes uncomfortable.
Irma was unable to follow Miranda into the ground because of Michael. In the book it's eventually divulged that as soon as she saw him on the plain, she realized he was the love of her life. She is thus too attached to the world. And Michael reminds, though his fate is different, of Sara, whom Miranda had said should learn to love others. He too becomes fixated on Miranda. Seeking Miranda on the rock, he instead discovers Irma, which is almost a disappointment for him. Miranda is "love" personified but is also abstract in that she is a spirit. "Love", in the form of Miranda, was indeed leading Michael to Irma, but though he and Irma are attracted to one another he is unable to transfer that "love" to her and drops her in his rude way on a day that seems to answer his rejection with a furious, angry storm. They will never meet again.
When reading Picnic at Hanging Rock, considering the time I've spent analyzing Kubrick, it struck me how similar in tone was Joan's language respecting "Hanging Rock", the power of the transformative "monolith" on it, to Kubrick's monoliths, specifically the one in 2001: A Space Odyssey. There were also similarities in their treatment of time, especially in Weir's interpretation of Joan's circularities, and his attempt to express them in the film. These were similar to Kubrick's deja vu's and what I've written concerning his use of anamnesis. Kubrick's films are infused with such.
This would be due Nietzsche, for Joan's conception of Hanging Rock's monolith must have been greatly inspired by Nietzsche, she perhaps finding in his conception of circular time something similar to her own and even perhaps her understanding of Australian Aboriginal concepts of time which are cyclical. Which is not to say that she might not have developed/felt these concepts for herself apart from Nietzsche. She likely had spontaneous realizations. But due the significance of the "monolith" I assume a connection to Nietzsche.
The moment we read in the 18th chapter that, at the monolith, the girls enter a state of perpetual noon, we know Nietzsche's influence, his experience at a natural "monolith" in the mountains giving rise to his philosophy on time.
And in every one of these cycles of human life there will be one hour where, for the first time one man, and then many, will perceive the mighty thought of the eternal recurrence of all things:- and for mankind this is always the hour of Noon.
The reason I say Joan's "understanding" of Aboriginal time, qualifying this as regards her perception, is we don't know her exact beliefs and we have no assurance that they would have been in accordance with Aboriginal conceptions.
Before going on to Nietzsche and his monolith, I'm going to copy whole an entire page "plus" from The Natural Mysticism of Indigenous Australian Traditions by Joan Hendriks and Gerald Hall, a paper intended to show that "What we call a natural mysticism of embodied knowledge of place is very different to the mysticism of the romantic or theistic traditions--or even to the non-theistic traditions of the East...Indigenous Australians are not only inheritors of a spiritual tradition that reaches back to the very beginnings of human life and culture, but...the insights of that tradition are crucial for reconnecting us to nature, the earth, the cosmos and, ultimately, to God. This is not the experience of God in, above or of nature; but the experience of a Presence in which humans know in a bodily and profound way their connection to the cosmic rhythms...and the divine mystery..."
The Australian Aboriginal way of being-in-the-world is not--or, at least, prior to the experience of Western colonization, was not--centred on temporality, but spatiality. According to Tony Swain, the failure of Europeans to appreciate--and enter into effective dialogue with--Aboriginal Australians has much to do with this disparity of world-horizons which centre on space (Aboriginal) and time (European). Aboriginal attachment to a particular place, land, country or sacred site belongs to another order of experience, a different type of consciousness--indeed what we can reasonably call a mystical experience of place. This requires some explanation.
The notion of Alcheringa or Dreaming, admittedly often (mis)translated Dreamtime, expresses a specific ontology that inextricably links all life to land, place and country. With reference to the Pintupi people [an Aboriginal people of the Western Desert region of Australia], "individuals come from the country, and this relationship provides a primary basis for owning a sacred site and for living in the area". Tony Swain elucidates this relationship between individual and land with reference to Ancestral beings and human conception.
As Ancestral beings gave extension to place they imbued it with their own being, and it is this stuff of existence, this life potential of land, which is lodged within a woman who thence is pregnant. The mother does not contribute to the ontological substance of the child, but rather 'carries' a life whose essence belongs, and belongs alone, to a site. The child's core identity is determined by his or her place of derivation. ... Life is annexation of place.
Consequently, a child's identity is derived from a particular place marked by a spiritual and totemic ancestry. So important is this tie of Aboriginal people to a specific place that they perceive the land around them as everywhere filled with marks of individual and ancestral origins as it is dense with story and myth. For Aboriginals to be removed from that country to which they belong is for them to be deprived of their very soul. It is their spiritual and physical homeland. It is no wonder then that the institutionalized practice of forced separation of children from their families, country and places of origin--the so-called 'Stolen Generation'--resulted in such profound psychic and spiritual displacement.
When we say that spatiality--the sacred sense of place--is the distinguishing feature of Aboriginal ontology, we are not suggesting a world devoid of past, present and future. However, such a world does not privilege temporality or history in the way of most other cultures. The abiding place of the Ancestors in Aboriginal cosmology, for example, is not understood in terms of a lineal genealogy. Time does not link the Ancestors to the present; it is through place or country that the rhythmic events of life are co-joined through the Dreaming to the time before time. In the words of one commentator:
The shallowness of genealogical memory is not a form of cultural amnesia but rather a way of focusing on the basis of all relationships--that is, the Jukurrpa and the land. By not naming deceased relatives, people are able to stress a relationship directly to the land. It is not necessary to trace back through many generations to a founding ancestor to make a claim.
According to Swain, there are two types of events which circumscribe Aboriginal life which he terms Abiding events and rhythmic events. Abiding events are in one sense linked to the past--and in that sense to the 'time' of the Dreaming; but the Dreaming is also now. If we are to use temporal metaphors to speak of Abiding Events mediated through the Dreaming, we are immediately led to an atemporal realm elsewhere described as "Everywhen", "Eternal Now" or "Ancestral Present". All this is to suggest that Abiding events are beyond change; history and time are irrelevant.
Aboriginals also construct their world according to rhythmic events. Again, one is mistaken to suggest that Aboriginals live according to 'cyclical time'--sometimes stated to make a distinction with 'linear time'. Rather, says Swain, they live a "sophisticated pattern of events in accordance with their rhythms". The manner in which rhythmic life events are co-joined to Ancestral Abiding events is not through memory, genealogy, history or time (linear or cyclical), but through place.
Now to return to Nietzsche, and here I shall quote myself, from my analysis on 2001.
We can't overlook the significance of the use of Richard Strauss' Also Spake Zarathustra, which was inspired by Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra, the "Sunrise" section here playing. A central idea was the eternal recurrence, had by Nietzsche during a walk when he saw a pyramidal block of stone in the alps. Another is that of humans as a transitional phase between apes and superhumans--the notion of the superhuman, of course, becoming an influence on Nazism, though Nietzche (d. 1890) was himself said not to be anti-Semitic, and was a critic of German nationalism.
The cyclical, recurring nature of life that Nietzche proposed appears to have been one locked into a perpetual reconstitution of things such as there is no deviation.
What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more' ... Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.'
"Whoever thou mayest be, beloved stranger, whom I meet here for the first time, avail thyself of this happy hour and of the stillness around us, and above us, and let me tell thee something of the thought which has suddenly risen before me like a star which would fain shed down its rays upon thee and every one, as befits the nature of light. - Fellow man! Your whole life, like a sandglass, will always be reversed and will ever run out again, - a long minute of time will elapse until all those conditions out of which you were evolved return in the wheel of the cosmic process. And then you will find every pain and every pleasure, every friend and every enemy, every hope and every error, every blade of grass and every ray of sunshine once more, and the whole fabric of things which make up your life. This ring in which you are but a grain will glitter afresh forever. And in every one of these cycles of human life there will be one hour where, for the first time one man, and then many, will perceive the mighty thought of the eternal recurrence of all things:- and for mankind this is always the hour of Noon".
I'm less concerned with Nietzche's conception of what all this exactly meant for him than Kubrick's intentions in use and repurposing, for Kubrick's works are all about the conflict of predeterminism (the oracle) and free will, and repetition as found in ideas concerning anemnesis and ZKR (which I've written at length on elsewhere, consult the links). His recurrent usage of deja vu and characters revisiting situations is all an expression of this, the traversing of the duplicate or similar patterns of a maze or labyrinth in the journey to the center. So, though Nietzche writes of a locked-in life, and we need to have an understanding of Kubrick's references, Kubrick's use of these ideas must be considered in context of his expression of certain themes throughout his oeuvre and how he played them out.
Nietzsche's emotional experience of his own monolith which he encountered (a pyramid in the mountains) was that it was "6000 feet beyond man and time". Joan's "monolith" is also beyond man and time, the book and film making clear how confounding it is to most of the schoolgirls that Hanging Rock, as described by McCraw, was not thousands of years old but one million years old and formed of lava that was many millions of years old. The idea of this millions and millions was so perplexing to Edith as to horrify her. She couldn't begin to conceive of millions and millions though Irma tried to give context with her father having made millions from his mine in Brazil, and Marion pointed out that Edith herself was made of millions of cells. Joan's Hanging Rock is also clearly intended to embody Aboriginal ancestors/spirits tied to this particular place, and there is had a transformative collision of the present and the past's perpetual enduring.
It would be difficult to discuss particulars of Joan's ideology in respect of Nietzsche and Aboriginal concepts. Instead, it is enough to know that Joan must have felt correspondences with both, and that she perhaps interpreted both according to her own impositions/perspectives, as do we all tend to do.
I've done my own comparison of movie dialogue with the book, but then I was looking at an online version of the script and found something I'd not heard. Following the dialogue between Michael and Albert in which Albert talks about how at the picnic grounds the Fitzhuberts "never go for a walk or nothing", an online script says that as the buggy (drag) pulls up to the rock's gate, Hussey says to the girls, "Take your hats. Let's go walk about now."
I'd not heard this, but it makes complete sense--and not as if we might not have already picked up on hints at a version of the Australian Aboriginal walkabout.
Wilderutopia helpfully has the following:
Walkabout refers to a rite of passage during which male Australian Aborigines would undergo a journey during adolescence and live in the wilderness for a period as long as six months.
In this practice they would trace the paths, or "songlines," that their ancestors took, and imitate, in a fashion, their heroic deeds. Also called a dreaming track or footprints of the ancestors, one of the paths across the land (or sometimes the sky) which mark the route followed by localized "creator-beings" during the Dreaming. In the Aboriginal world view, every event leaves a record in the land. Everything in the natural world is a result of the actions of the archetypal beings, whose actions created the world. The paths of the songlines are recorded in traditional songs, stories, dance, and painting.
The Australian Aborigines speak of jiva or guruwari, a seed power deposited in the earth. In the Aboriginal world view, every meaningful activity, event, or life process that occurs at a particular place leaves behind a vibrational residue in the earth, as plants leave an image of themselves as seeds. The shape of the land -- its mountains, rocks, riverbeds, and water holes -- and its unseen vibrations echo the events that brought that place into creation. Everything in the natural world is a symbolic footprint of the metaphysical beings whose actions created our world. As with a seed, the potency of an earthly location is wedded to the memory of its origin.
A knowledgeable person is able to navigate across the land by repeating the words of the song, which describe the location of landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena. In some cases, the paths of the creator-beings are said to be evident from their marks, or petrosomatoglyphs, on the land, such as large depressions in the land which are said to be their footprints.
"Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic being who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path -- birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes -- and so singing the world into existence." -- Bruce Chatwin in "Songlines"
In the book, at the end Michael goes on his own walkabout. It's not phrased as such but this is what it means when he leaves to familiarize himself with North Queensland. He invites Albert to go along with him and at first it seems Albert will not have the means to do so, but then he receives a good bit of money from Irma's parents, thanks for his role in saving Irma, and he is able to go.
Joan weaves into her story hints of Walkabout and Aboriginal myth along with Roman-Greco mythology and biblical mythology, Victorian sensibilities, and such things (it would seem) as Nietzsche's eternal recurrence, so keep this in mind as one negotiates the terrain. It is not all one or the other. We have a complex multi-layered combination.
For instance, Joan brings in Anglo-Euro ancestral heritage, making a comparison, when she has Michael musing, "He reminded himself he was in Australia now: Australia, where anything might happen. In England everything had been done before: quite often by one's own ancestors, over and over again. He sat down on a fallen log, heard Albert calling him through the trees, and knew that this was the country where he, Michael Fitzhubert, was going to live." Michael knows of the walkings in those ancestral echoes in England, but we can't stop there, for later Michael does experience those echoes at the rock, in the "Go on!" passage.
There was only one conscious thought in his head: Go on. A Fitzhubert ancestor hacking his way through bloody barricades of Agincourt had felt much the same way; and had, in fact, incorporated those very words. In Latin, in the family crest: Go on. Mike, some five centuries later, went on climbing.
In the book, Hussey asks Edith why she is called Edith (she had inquired why he called his horse Duchess) and she responds it was her grandmother's name, then adds, "Only horses don't have grandmothers like we do." Hussey replies, "Oh don't they just!", Joan has all life affected by the ancestors.
Joan certainly makes use of Australian "place" with the heavy sense of ancient Aboriginal presence at the rock, but she is also looking for parallels that transcend place.
Weir certainly has sympathy for Aboriginal spirituality, going on to make The Last Wave after Picnic at Hanging Rock. In the manner in which Weir subtly communicated in Picnic at Hanging Rock the eternal round and a sense of deja vu, I'm not, however, certain that he was sharing his interpretation of Joan's conceptions (which are never articulated in depth) or his interpretation of Nietzsche's or his interpretation of what he understood of Aboriginal time. As I said previously, it would be difficult to sort out and discuss the particulars of Joan's concepts, just as here it would be difficult to discuss exactly whose lead Weir was following, but it can easily be shown that he was attempting to visually communicate the eternal round through a disruption of strict chronology.
So let's look at his depiction of the ascents up the rock.
As the girls, still at Appleyard, prepare to leave, several of them dance in a round, holding hands (circularity). They sing "Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?" the French nursery rhyme which is itself a "round". Cut to Mrs. Appleyard in her office checking her watch. Then back to the yard and Miss McCraw entering it, but apart from others, and seemingly very aware of her isolation from the others, Dianne standing in a circle with Irma and Marion and Miranda, some other girls having formed their own circle, and Edith, like Miss McCraw, off to herself. McCraw seems very conscious that Dianne and the girls don't open their circle to include her as Dianne raises her hand to show a ring on her finger (circularity), she already apparently engaged. Perhaps she is taken aback because of Marion associating herself with the French governess rather than her. She looks back at Edith who stands so very obviously and awkwardly apart. Then Edith rings the bell (the Frere Jacques rhyme has the priest still sleeping when the bell needs ringing) and we realize that one reason Edith has been standing apart is her role of ringing the bell. All descend the stairs to the circular drive (circularity). In the center of the lawn circumscribed by the drive there may be a statue of Venus. White turkeys run about in a flock, recalling the girls. Mrs. Appleyard comes outside to warn them of the dangers of the rock and tell them when they're expected back.
That Edith has the job of ringing the bell anticipates her being the one to flee the rock screaming. If we take our cue from the rhyme then the idea is of waking from sleep. The bell's function is this in the rhyme, and Edith's screaming down the mountain wakes her schoolfellows from sleep on the plain below. We may also consider it spiritually.
After the drag leaves the gates of Appleyard College, McCraw remarks on, "This we do for pleasure, that we may shortly be at the mercy of venemous snakes and poisonous ants. How foolish we human creatures be." In the next shot we see from afar the drag passing a triangular pond on a curved road.
They pass through Woodend, then Hussey points out the rock to the girls. McCraw makes her remarks on how the mountain comes to Mohammed and Hanging Rock to Hussey. They then have their exchange about the great age of the rock. A million years old. Irma muses that it has been waiting a million years just for them.
There is a scene of Michael and his aunt and uncle, his aunt warning him of snakes, just as Mrs. Appleyard had warned the girls against snakes, followed by his initiation of a friendship with Albert. As he approaches Albert, we have a close-up of a cicada on Albert's cuff. Michael notices it. Albert takes the cicada in hand, shakes it, which sets it singing, and then throws it into the air. (The cicada can be a symbol of rebirth, and is cognate with the Bacchae.) Albert says it couldn't be much after noon. The two share a drink by the stream which the girls will cross in order to ascend the rock.
The girls now arrive at Hanging Rock. Miranda alights and opens the gate. Birds take wing, again as if a premonitory gesture, that they are aware of the significance of the arrival.
In the book, we only have a brief view of the picnic area of Michael's uncle and aunt before the girls cross the stream, which is when we will have our first dialogue between Michael and Albert. Michael's aunt does not warn him about snakes. There will be no business about the cicada. Albert will not mention that it must be a little after noon. Instead, in the book, it is Hussey who says it is nearly noon just before McCraw gives her story of how returning by the hypotenuse would be a shorter way home.
Cut to the girls (they strike as being perhaps intended to recall the Bacchae) toasting St. Valentine, Miranda ceremonially cutting a heart-shaped cake through the center, separating Vale from ntine. Perhaps coincidentally, we have the vale (valley) thus divided from the peaks (tine), the high from the low, just as the stream separates the plain from the rock. At the bottom is a decorative S scroll. If we consider the shape of the swan's neck, the S then strikes me as a hieroglyphic representation of when Miranda later crosses the stream, Michael musing that she does so with the grace of one of the swans on his uncle's lake. As that is unvoiced in the film, it seems to me it could be an oblique visual reference.
Back at the college, Mrs. Appleyard has her encounter with Sara over her refusal and inability to learn the Hemans poem.
At Hanging Rock, the girls resting, Miranda looks at flowers through a magnifying glass, and McCraw, eating a banana, reads her math book. She switches the banana from her right hand to her left just as Hussey notices his watch has stopped and we have the conversation concerning the stopped watches. Hussey, glancing at the sun, says it must be well after two. McCraw takes up her banana again in her right hand to continue eating it (she had set it and the book down to consult her stopped watch) and we notice a continuity error as the banana is longer than it was before. But McCraw seems to vaguely notice as well, glancing at the banana after taking a bite.
Or is this a continuity error? I don't know as we have things happen later that suggest time being not as it was and their not being conscious of it. They are not fully awake, unaware of the eternal recurrence.
Edith muses, looking at the Fitzhubert picnic area, that they might be the only creatures in the world, Weir then following with images of ants porting off pieces of Valentine's cake, Edith having disregarded everything that isn't human. Later, when Marion looks down from the rock at the small figures of everyone on the plain, we are supposed to be reminded of this scene and make a comparison.
Marion requests to do her measurements at the rock. As they start off, Marion is in the lead, Irma follows, then Edith, and finally Miranda who waves back at mademoiselle who makes her Botticelli comment (which is unvoiced in the book). The next shot shows the group as they are normally ordered in their rambles, Miranda, Irma, Marion and Edith. When they reach the stream, the crossing is inverted, first Edith, then Marion, Irma and Miranda. Watching, Albert says he thought Edith was going to take a bath (which brings back to mind Irma's comment that she would wear a diamond watch like Miranda's always, even in the bath, then had asked Hussey if he wouldn't do the same). Albert comments on Irma's hourglass figure and Miranda's legs. "All the way up to her bum," Michael says, and yet he also states that he'd prefer if Albert didn't say such things. Albert holds that he's simply saying the things that others think. Michael rises and says he is going to stretch his legs. He follows the girls across the stream, which sets it up so that the audience will wonder if Michael and Albert were involved in the disappearance of the girls.
The girls reach the lower levels of Hanging Rock and continue their ascent. When Miranda beckons, "Look!", Edith stares at the ground and Miranda redirects her gaze up.
A beautiful 360 degree pan is had that begins with Miranda, Marion, Irma and Edith viewed from the side in their ascent to the right. The camera pans left away from them and the rocks, through forest to more rocks, and then ends in showing the girls from the rear as they continue their ascent. It is a somewhat disorienting shot for we've panned left from one group of rocks to what seems like another group of rocks opposite, which we know is impossible as there is only one great group of rocks. The pan continues and then we see the girls from the rear and we realize that we've come a full circle.
Miranda, Irma, Marion and Edith continue through the rocks. At a stone clearing in the rocks, Edith rests on a dead tree while Miranda, Marion and Irma continue on. From above we have a shot of Miranda, Irma, Marion and Edith. We then have a critical shot in which the usual line-up of Miranda leading shifts. From the side we view Miranda through a slit in the rocks. She stops to gaze down the slit in the direction of the camera, Irma, Marion and Edith passing at normal speed behind her. Miranda follows now at the rear. The next shot again has us looking through a side passage, closer in, as Irma, Marion, then Edith pass at normal pace. There is then a barely noticed cut on the empty passage (1:19:21 from the end), return to the same scene, and then Miranda passes in isolation, her hair floating slightly on the air, she at a slightly slower film speed. Cut to one of the giant "faces" in the rock in profile. Next a view from behind of Miranda, then from above as Miranda, Irma, Marion and Edith exit onto another rocky clearing (1:18:47 from the end).
To me the barely perceptible cut at 1:19:21 from the end, between Edith and Miranda, Miranda then shown in slow motion, fits in with the pattern of circularity and perhaps repetition, for with that cut, the way Miranda is isolated, she could already be leading again, just as she as leading in the following shots. It fits in with the shot of McCraw returning to her banana and it is longer than it was and she seems to appraise then dismiss it. (One could look at it this way. When McCraw glances at her banana and ignores the hint at circularity, or eternal recurrence, the banana being slightly longer, she is also acting out the audience response in assuming a continuity error.) Also, it seems to me this is why we had the shot of Miranda stopping and standing gazing down the passage while the others progress ahead and she follows up at the rear. In this way Weir makes us highly conscious of an order and that Miranda had taken up the rear, and we should notice in a few shots when she suddenly is in the lead again. The continuity incident with the banana had occurred with the notice of time having frozen at noon. What had Neitzsche written? "This ring in which you are but a grain will glitter afresh forever. And in every one of these cycles of human life there will be one hour where, for the first time one man, and then many, will perceive the mighty thought of the eternal recurrence of all things:- and for mankind this is always the hour of Noon". The repetition is also subtly had in the book with exposition revealing that bananas were "inseparable from an Australian picnic", then later when McCraw eats her banana it is with "disastrous results" as she is sketched by two sisters, and Hussey approaches to observe that his watch has stopped.
At this particular clearing, Miranda having just announced they can't go much farther as they'd promised they'd not be gone long, Irma wishes they could instead be out all night and watch the moon rise. Edith pipes up and says Sara writes poetry about Miranda while Marion takes out a right angle square and holds it angle side down as she lifts it to the sky to make her measurements of the rocks.
Now is when Irma tells her story of Sara as the doomed deer that could not survive in captivity. Feeling ill, Edith rests. Irma removes her shoes and does her dance against the sun. Edith wakes to find all the girls but her have removed their stockings and shoes and are walking away. She follows.
Marion gazes down at their schoolmates asleep at the bottom of the rock. She wonders what they're doing down there, at the lack of purpose, though she decides it's probable they are performing some function of which they are themselves unaware. It is now that Miranda says everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and place and invites all to look up at the monolith.
Suddenly overcome, they lie down to sleep on a stony area under the monolith. Bugs crawl on Irma's feet. A lizard slides by Miranda. Back at the picnic area, everyone sleeps but for McCraw who is reading her trigonometry book. She looks from the book to the height of the rock and back to the book with its figure of the circle over the triangle. At the height of the triangle and at the base are mathematical theta figures. Wikipedia notes that Tau was once a symbol for life and resurrection, whereas Theta was a symbol of death. The Egyptians had a cross in the circle as a symbol of the soul, which it seems was a version of Theta. Kosmos was represented by a form of Theta in which the world was a fiery circle and the snake spanning its middle was a "good spirit". It had kinship to the glyph of the sun being a circle with a dot in the middle. But in Athens, Theta was used as an abbreviation for thanatos, meaning death, and was considered to resemble a human skull. It was used as a warning like a skull and crossbones. Does McCraw feel a foreboding? It seems that she does, but of what?
As the discussion of the Pythagorean Theorem that was in the book had been left out of the film, Weir instead opting to use that time for the "million years" conversation on the age of the rock, Weir injects a visual representation of the triangle here. One could say that in the way it is done we have the triangle superimposed upon the rock where Marion, not too long before, had been making her measurements with the right angle. As far as the film goes, to represent the triangle conversation visually makes a stronger connection to the rock and sacred geometry, but doing so does sacrifice the idea of the hypotenuse as an expedited path home.
It is now that McCraw would have begun her ascent of the rock.
We are shown the monolith again, then through rippling air we view the girls asleep from above. Then Miranda, Marion and Irma continue their ascent, moving in slow motion. Edith demands when are they going home (remember the triangle and McCraw speaking of taking the short path home), and as the girls disappear behind a turn, the screaming Edith begins her run down the rock. Cut to Mrs. Appleyard rising and going to her window to look out upon the white turkeys.
We have seen nothing alarming, so we are uncertain why Edith reacts so profoundly as she does to the others continuing to climb. Why does she screech and run as if she is scared out of her mind? Her reaction doesn't necessarily fit with what we've observed, except the eerie bits have us assume that there's something instead going on psychically that has profoundly agitated her.
As I stated earlier, I think there is a connection between Edith ringing the "waking" bell at the college and Edith screaming down the rocks. When Edith had rung the bell, the congregation of turkeys mimicked the milling of the girls. It's interesting that as Edith screams her way down the rock, Weir returns to the college, Mrs. Appleyard rising as if she has become aware of something peculiar even at this distance, going to look at the turkeys.
Skipping ahead now to the ascent of Michael and Albert. They approach the rock from a different angle than the buggy had and search the rock separately. We are shown a profile view of a monolith just before Michael reaches what may be a suspended boulder. He is called by Albert, and leaves a white flag of paper at that point before going back down. Michael decides to stay the night and continue his search while Albert returns home.
No mention is made in the book of the Victorian preoccupation with Egyptology, but when Albert makes excuses to Michael's uncle about why he is not there, speaking to the uncle in his study, we see on the door a painting of Egyptian glyphs. In the foreground there seems to rise up, out of focus, the statuette of a cobra. By researching the crown the central figure wears in the painting of the hieroglyph, which is the double crown of the united lower and upper Egypt, I was able to find the original carving on which this painting was based. It is of Ptolemy XII, the father of the famed Cleopatra who committed suicide by asp. His nickname came to be Auletes, the pipes-player, for he loved playing the pipes, so there may or may not be a connection with the pipe music in the film (pan pipes are used, which for the Victorians would have represented the voice of mysterious, archaic myth and spirituality, and are likely a substitute in the film for the didgeridoo). The scene, from the Temple of Kom Ombo, is of Ptolemy XII between Nekhbet, on the left, wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt, and Wadjet on the right, the serpent goddess of Lower Egypt, dressed in its crown. Both are guardians, protectors of the pharaoh, and goddesses of childbirth. The temple is a dual one dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile god, and Haroeris, a form of Horus. As a dual temple, I read that it has "most everything twice, the entrance, the Great Court...".
By including this hieroglyph, Weir brings up Victorian interest in the exotic esoteric and, by extension, all its attending spiritual and colonial complications.
We see on the wall in the study a boomerang.
The room brings up the problem of interpreting what occurs on the rock via the Victorian lens.
In the book when the girls ask if they can also take off their hats as well as their gloves, McCraw protests, "...there is no necessity to look like a wagon load of gypsies" then re-enters "the world of pure uncluttered reason". This is not in the film and the Egyptian painting may reference it as the word "gypsies" comes from "Egyptian". What does Egyptian come from? A word meaning "temple of the soul of Ptah", the creator god who made everything through thought and the magic of the word. The architect god. If one looks up Ptah and masonry one will find Masonic writings on Ptah as the originator of masonry, and thus mason tools become Ptah's symbols, such as the right angle square. I've no doubt that the uncle's interest in Egyptology was not only due a Victorian preoccupation but that he would also have been a mason, at least according to Weir.
The next morning, Michael, who the book reveals has only once before spent the night outside and that in very protected circumstances on a beach with friends, is clearly disoriented as he begins his exploration anew. He encounters a lizard, which we are shown from the front, its seemingly toothless mouth agape. He seems disconcerted. This is his encounter with the snake, as prefigured by the cobra in his uncle's office, as forewarned by his aunt and uncle at the rock.
The frilled-neck lizard does actually have little teeth, and even long incisors, but it's not dangerous. A Guugu Yimithirr tribal member tells a frilled-neck lizard story on the acquiring of the frill, which it didn't originally have. It comes to a tree in which there is a bees' nest and tells his blackbird sisters he will climb up and get it. He tastes a bit of the honey for himself. When he reaches his hand in a second time, the blackbird sisters sing out that they want a taste, to throw some down. The lizard eats it himself and tells them he needs some grass to soak up the honey and that he will throw that down and they can suck on it. When they can't find the right grass, he has them take off their skirts and throw them up to him. He says he will soak the skirts in honey and they can suck on those. Instead, he soaks the skirts in honey then eats them, such is his greediness, and that's how he got his frill.
The insertion of the frilled neck dragon at this point in the film seems decorative and a hint at danger (beware the venomous snakes) but when Michael is later found, and Irma is discovered because he clasps a bit of cloth in his hand, we assume that cloth is from a torn skirt. Also, we have the problem in both book and film of certain items of clothing never being found, such as McCraw's skirt. A story such as this could be taken as an answer. In this case, I imagine it certainly has to do with Irma.
The Rainbow Serpent who, much like Ptah, went about creating, is brought in again via the frilled lizard, for the Rainbow Serpent also had a habit of swallowing things. One story has the Rainbow Serpent (Goorialla), while going about molding the world, swallowing two brothers who ran into its mouth for protection during a rain storm. The morning after, the boys aren't found but the tracks of Goorialla are and so it was known that it had swallowed them. Thusly, that is why the rainbow is seen after a storm. It's Goorialla the Rainbow Serpent.
We are shown the profile of the monolith again. Michael reaches one of the stony clearings on the rock and is overtaken by the same sleep as the girls had been. How is Weir to depict the dream had by Michael in the book? He considers it essential and so keeps it in the film.
Michael is expressly shown lying down so his head and upper torso are in a deep shadow. But then cut to a close-up of Michael asleep, and his head is in full blazing sunlight which must be from overhead. We hear McCraw talking about the watch having stopped at twelve, which is that Nietzschean hour of eternal recurrence so I doubt we have a continuity error or that we are simply to assume that Michael has been asleep for this long (and even if he had been, we have that skip from him resting in shadow to instead full sunlight accompanied by McCraw's remark). Michael heard something like voices in his dream in the book, and what Weir does is fill his dream with things we heard said before and during the ascent. From McCraw's remark, Weir moves on to Miranda's statement that everything begins and ends at the right time and place. The voices are out of order, not chronological. The way that Weir does this certainly keeps open, for the viewer, the question that Michael may have followed them all the way up the rock, for him to be dreaming what they said. The girls again begin what we last saw of their ascent, this superimposed over Michael. Miranda repeats that everything begins and ends at the right time and place (recollect the image from the temple of Kom Ombo where everything is represented twice, and we have Miranda's statement on time and place given twice). With this second utterance of "time" a dark mark very briefly appears on Michael's brow hidden within this superimposition. It looks like a flaw in the film. But a mere second later, as Edith screams, a wound spontaneously appears at the same place on Michael's brow as he starts awake. He sticks a piece of paper on some Queen Anne's lace behind him, then begins climbing the rock again, desperate. He knows. He is no longer searching, he has found and must reach what he has found. We see him through fluid air, as if trying to swim his way up the rock, struggling against resisting unseen forces.
Below are screengrabs of what I've described above. Had to bounce around between Youtube and Hulu as it's tough to do screengrabs on Hulu (thus Youtube) but Hulu's version of the film was the old one(?) showing the mark in the third image. Apparently the restoration of the film doesn't have the mark. But I have a difficult time buying that the mark is accidental because it is not entirely black but has a red hue on the edges, and though it is not exactly a duplication of the wound, when turned 90 degrees is the same length and width as the wound.
The above grouping of images shows that Michael lies down to rest in the same place that Edith laid down to rest when Marion made her measurements and Irma told Miranda she wished they could watch the moon rise. They then had the doom conversation. Edith was wearing blue ribbons and Mike wears blue suspenders. Much was made in the book of Edith's blue ribbons, the other girls thinking they weren't fashionable while Edith showed off in them. Weir has Edith's blue ribbons seem to have a correspondance with the blue suspenders he's given Mike. These will end up having a correspondance with a painting later seen in the film of a guardian angel, wearing a blue sash, leading a child across a "bridge" (I have found the Victorian painting online and this is it's name.) We see the painting when Dianne takes the officer in to get a pair of Miranda's bloomers for the bloodhound. Before the painting, on a dresser, is an image of the poet, Lord Byron.
We also see the painting of the guardian angel later in a scene immediately before the hysteria episode with Irma's visit, when Dianne walks in on Sara talking to Miranda's photo and she tells Sara that Miranda will not likely be returning. Sara tells her that Miranda had secrets, that she knew she wouldn't be coming back. In the scene immediately after Irma is also accused of having secrets in the book though not in the film. You will notice that now the Byron print is marred with a white mark on the forehead in the approximate place where Mike received his head wound. These things are certainly connected as that mark on the print wasn't there in the scene when Dianna and the officer took the bloomers from the room, before Mike received the wound. The Byron photo, the mark on it, the guardian angel and Michael's blue suspenders are all Weir. Why would Weir choose Byron? As Mike's foot was injured immediately after he woke with the head wound, could it be because Byron limped due some deformity of one of his feet? Within another few paragraphs I'll discuss this further.
After his dream vision, leaving a flag on a bush, his foot by now injured, Mike makes his way through a passage to another clearing across which he struggles toward another passage.
Albert, looking for Michael, comes across the flag on the bush Michael had left after his dream. In the book, each of Albert's forearms are tattooed with mermaids. Weir changes this so his right arm is tattooed with a mermaid while his left is tattooed with Botticelli's birth of Venus on the seashell. We only now get a clear view of this.
The Venus links to Miranda and also to the cicada, symbol of rebirth, that was on Michael's left shirt cuff when we first saw him at the picnic ground.
Albert had climbed up the same passage Michael had traversed after his dream, and came to the clearing across which Michael could barely struggle, as if fighting through a great resistance. We see that this is the same clearing on which the girls had their last sleep under the monolith, the same clearing where they left Edith and she went screaming down the mount. The police had made it to this clearing with their bloodhound that indicated it smelled something but they found nothing. Michael Fitzhubert, by name, has a correspondance, with the bloodhound. Bloodhounds are held to descend from a breed that originated out of the Abbey of Saint-Hubert, Belgium. Hubert was the patron saint of archers, hunters (and even mathematicians). He was said to have had a revelatory vision, while hunting, of a stag with a cross between its antlers. He became an advocate for compassionate hunting.
It is off this clearing that Albert finds Mike who is in complete shock.
In the book as it was published Edith fled from this clearing as the girls disappeared into the passage behind the monolith. In the version with the 18th chapter the chronology is slightly different for she is not mentioned as being present at this clearing where they see the monolith and have the discussion on the people below being as ants, on the smoke from the fires below, on the sound of drumming. It is here that Marion feels the monolith turning her inside out, which Irma does not. They pass beyond the monolith and fall into their deep sleep when it is out of sight. When they awake it is to a colorless twilight and McCraw appears, dragging herself up. They all toss off their corsets. A hole as positive space appears to McCraw, and the snake appears that leads three of the four (not Irma) down a hole beyond heart-shaped leaves.
The serpentine-edged lace that had been clutched in Mike's hand reminds of the lichen (or lichen imprints) covering parts of Hanging Rock. But it may also remind of the Queen Anne's lace upon which had stuck a white flag.
Just as Mike's wound spontaneously appeared, it is as if out of the dream time the lace became manifest.
Miranda's favorite flower was given as a daisy, and her lace had a daisy pattern. This is not that lace.
Mike having confided the lace to Albert, he races back to the rock, to the same clearing where he'd found Michael. We see him fairly easily clambering up the passage toward which Michael had been so heroically struggling, barely able to move. The resistance that had been present, constraining Michael, is not there now for Albert. He finds Irma, who had been previously found by Michael. Over the cave in which she's secreted is a rocky protrusion that seems to me to resemble the head of a snake.
When Irma is discovered, she has a wound on her head in the same place as Michael. Is this like a stigmata that has appeared on Michael's head? Is it a sympathetic connection between him and Irma? It isn't explained in the book. Weir decides to keep this wound and not only not explain it but show it as appearing mysteriously, spontaneously.
To skip ahead. The rescue of Irma is by the team of Michael and Albert. However, in the book, when Albert climbs the rock with the knowledge had in Michael's note, he does so with the police, not alone. Weir chooses to have Albert by himself discover Irma and it is a heart-wrenching scene. We feel his care for her in his discovery of her as he grasps Irma up in his arms. We feel his desperation in his isolation with her as he rushes to the height of the rock to call after the wagon that is riding away on the plain. We feel just how small he is on the rock. He is a rescuer, a hero, and yet we are terrified for him.
Now, that head wound, which I get the feeling, as represented by Weir, is an expression of the eternal recurrence, and is not simply an excuse for not remembering events because of a possible concussion.
Because we are dealing with circularity, the eternal recurrence, my recourse is going to be to a biblical verse that seems to speak to the ouroboros, often pictured as the snake eating its own tail.
And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed...upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel..."
This "dust" to be eaten by the serpent is the same as "for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return". The dust of which Adam was formed. A dust to be eaten by the serpent that grasps the heel even as the heel bruises its head. Michael's movements on the rock seem suggestive of this. He wakes from his dream of the girls climbing on, and he has relived what has happened to them to the extent of our own knowledge, what Weir had shown us. This wound Michael receives perhaps represents in part the knowledge he's received, which compels him on when he wakes, seeming certain of the path he should take. His ankle/foot immediately being injured, and our last image of his "swimming" up the rock on his belly.
So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
Here may be another layer of the story of Appleyard and Hanging Rock. Joan was a gardener and the beauty of the gardens at Appleyard and the Fitzhubert's are recounted again and again. Appleyard, at the beginning, is a place of safe and voluptuous but controlled beauty. Mrs. Appleyard warns the girls, as they leave for their picnic, "Once again let me remind you that the Rock itself is extremely dangerous and you are therefore forbidden to engage in any tomboy foolishness in the matter of explorations, even on the lower slopes. It is, however, a geological marvel on which you will be required to write a brief essay on Monday morning. I also wish to remind you that the vicinity is renowned for its venomous snakes and poisonous ants of various species. I think that is all. Have a pleasant day and try to behave yourselves in a manner to bring credit to the College..." The strict admonitions are all Victorian restraint but echo too the story of Eden, wherein one can only venture so far and no further, wherein one is restrained yet living in beauty and pleasure.
Speaking of dust and the ouroboros, when Miss McCraw steps into the carriage, Hussey says to her to mind her gloves on the wheel as it's dusty, and yet, "He had long ago given up attempting to teach this basic truth to lady passengers about to enter one of his cabs."
Support for my theory may be had in the message Mike leaves in his notebook in Joan's book, the notebook from which Mike tore the pages from which he made "flags", sticking them on trees and bushes to mark his trail.
As soon as Albert had attended to the horses he flung himself fully clothed on his unmade truckle bed and fell asleep. He seemed to have hardly laid his head on the pillow before he was wide awake and staring at the little square of grey light at the window, with the events of yesterday, no longer confused by physical exhaustion as they had been last night, falling neatly into place like the pieces of a fretwork puzzle. Except that one of the key pieces was missing. Which was it, and where exactly did it fit into the pattern? Better start at the beginning when he had found Mike slumped over the tussock on Saturday morning. How far had he wandered before he had fallen and injured his ankle? Had he gone back to the laurel bush and started again from there? Those silly little paper flags...! The next minute Albert had sprung out of the bed and was pulling on his boots...Thank God the pigskin notebook was still there! He took it over to the window and by its sickly light began slowly deciphering the scribbled entries, page by page. They appeared to begin in March of last year, starting off with an appointment at a Cambridge address, a cure for distemper, copied out from Country Life. Memo -- Call for tennis racquet. At last, opposite a page bearing the sole item 'Worm Powders' he came upon the one he was looking for. A scrawl of crooked capitals, in pencil:
ALBERT ABOVE BUSH MY FLAGS
HURRY RING OF HIGH UP HIGH
Patterns. Joan has Albert helping to find Irma by scrutinizing patterns.
Opposite the worm powder (dust) are the instructions for finding what Mike has discovered. A ring. High. The bush is a laurel bush (Queen Anne's lace in the film) and I will pursue this subject further in another section on Apollo-Python and Daphne, the Laurel.
As Albert searches for this "high" "ring" with the policeman and the doctor, they each have different viewpoints on the message. The policeman thinks it refers to a diamond ring because an heiress (Irma) is involved. Albert says it will be a ring of stones. Jim, the policeman, reminds that "we policeman are trained to look at every angle..."
When Weir shows us Michael being carried out on the stretcher, rather than having the wound exposed or wrapped in a bandage that ties around the head, he has a square of white placed over it, spotted with blood, which sets it up for us to make a connection between this and the little white flags that Michael has left on the rock, pierced through by twigs and thorns.
The wound on the forehead reminds me of Ash Wednesday, which marks the 40 days of Lent before Easter, and in the story of Hanging Rock we're at a time that would approximate this, considering that the book ends with the absolute downfall of Appleyard and the death of Mrs. Appleyard at Easter (I think in the book Easter falls on March 29th, and though the year is 1900, the closest year that fits with Valentine's and Easter is 1891). What is said as one is marked on the forehead with the ashes made of the palm fronds from the Good Friday of the previous year? "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
Though Appleyard's is a garden, Hanging Rock seems also a garden of its own that is intimately connected with it. The breakfast at Appleyard begins with a cherub/Cupid statuette being carried in, dedicated to St. Valentine. At Hanging Rock, Irma wears on her breast, above her heart, the pin of a cherub/Cupid holding an arrow. One wonders whether there is knowledge tasted at the rock that causes the fall of Appleyard--or there is instead here also a peculiar representation of the ouroboros, Appleyard at one end and Hanging Rock at the other, the magma extrusions forming their own ancient, formidable fence about the garden that is Hanging Rock on the far side of time from Appleyard.
There is a big problem with Irma. She has been on this rock, in the profound heat of the Australian outback, for 8 days. It's one thing to survive without food for 8 days. It is pretty well impossible to survive without water in such an environment after three days. But with the exception of "nothing more serious than shock and exposure", Irma is unharmed but for some scratches, cuts and bruises. Irma's survival, actually, should be a bigger mystery than the disappearance of Miranda, Marion and McCraw. Irma has a viability problem. She should not be alive. Joan states in her book that a big clue, discounted, is her missing corset, though she was seen that morning with lightly-boned French stays.
When the girls had cast their corsets off the rock and they had become frozen in time, hanging there, not falling, they were described as "becalmed on the windless air like a fleet of little ships". Corset etymologically derives from corpse, the body, but the "stays" of their corsets seem here to refer to "stay" as being held motionless in place, and also likened to the "stay" that is a rope that supports a ship's mast. Why does Joan say that when they ignore Irma's missing corset, her french "stays", that it is overlooking a significant clue? Perhaps because in the nautical sense there are clues and clue lines (or clews and clew-lines). "Clue-lines" are used to haul up a sail. This, as well as the idea of searching for important facts, derives from the "clew" that was Theseus' ball of thread in labyrinth. The clue or clew line also has a relationship to the triangle. In diagrams of triangular sails, the clew is the free angle of the sail opposite the mast.
One may wonder "why sails, why are we being referred to sails". But it is, after all, poems about ships in trouble that figure prominently at the beginning of the book, children bound to these wrecks literally or out of loyalty. Doomed to die. The four on Hanging Rock, however, free themselves of these sail-like corsets.
Irma is found without her corset, yet clothed in her dress again. Corset, again, comes from "corpse", the corporeal. The officer who finds Irma, with Albert, must be convinced that she isn't dead. He refers to her as the "corpse" and the doctor assures him she is a "living, breathing girl". Joan seems to be expressing something about Irma that has enabled her to be found living, rather than dead, after 8 days on the rock. Like the corsets, it may be that Irma's body was stuck in time so, for her, it's as if she has been found shortly after she'd disappeared.
The name Miranda was created by Shakespeare for The Tempest, a play that is all about reality and illusion. Shakespeare's Miranda is born in Italy, but when she is a young child her father, Prospero is exiled. Rather like the child in the poem on the burning deck of the ill-fated ship, or the girl bound to the mast on the ship that will be wrecked, her father takes her with him into exile, on a flimsy vessel that ends in being shipwrecked during a storm on an alien, wild island. That island had been previously inhabited by another exile, a sorceress who gave birth to a son only part human. This sorceress dies before the shipwreck of Prospero and Miranda, and colonialism is part of that story as well, how Prospero lords over Caliban, the heir of the island, enslaving him. Joan's Miranda, like the Miranda of Shakespeare, is the property of two worlds. She belongs to the Victorian age, to England, but moreover to the bush of Australia, in which she was born and reared. In The Tempest, Prospero puts others to sleep in order to perform his magic with them unaware, just as in Picnic at Hanging Rock we have the mysterious bouts of sleep that overcome the characters. Just as the movie begins with the Poe quote about the dream within a dream, in The Tempest we have Prospero's monologue on how all the stagecraft is illusory, but a dream. Throughout, Prospero manipulates what other characters experience so they believe people are dead who are not, causing great woe. Unlike Picnic at Hanging Rock, at the end of The Tempest the illusory veils drop away and those who were thought to have been dead are revealed to be alive and there is rejoicing with all reunited.
Miranda wears a butterfly belt, the butterfly a transformation symbol, and this is typical that people incline toward what they would count as beautiful representations of rebirth. Greta, however, transforming even as she climbs the rock, is presented as "funny". Edith laughs when speaking of her. In the 18th chapter she is spoken of as being like a "clown". But I think it is a misapprehension to comprehend her as only ridiculous. This isn't the case. The native Caliban, in The Tempest is repeatedly disparaged as grotesque in appearance, something that could be put on show in England. Peculiarly, though she is not a native like Caliban, even though Greta McCraw is stated to have had no acquaintance with the landscape despite being in Australia all her adult life, having always had her nose in her books, she seems to me to have a correspondance with Caliban as she ascends the rock, shedding clothing along the way, becoming more and more the purest essence of herself, this triangular angular thing, seemingingly out of joint but the one who has a deep understanding of what is taking place and leading the others. We assume, when Mrs. Appleyard mourns the loss of McCraw because of her dependence upon her masculine intellect, that McCraw was agreeable to this position (we may wonder if they might have been lovers) but could it be she is more like the enslaved Caliban who wanted release? Or has she secretly craved release from the Victorian world? It's impossible to say. The only picture we have of the working of her mind is that she delights in and is excited by numbers and all their possibilities. When we meet her again in the 18th chapter, on the rock, she has discarded all else but that wonder. She doesn't even know any longer who the girls are even though she has done her violent best to make it up the rock to them.
The scratchy voice had a convincing ring of authority. "And now, since we seem to be thrown together on a plane of common experience--I have no idea why--may I have your names? I have apparently left my own particular label somewhere over there."
It may be that some hint of the why of Greta's metamorphosis into a crab is reflected in the movie's choice to have a butterfly serve as decoration on Miranda's belt. The butterfly is a symbol of metamorphosis with its transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. An Australian Aboriginal tale has instead the crab as symbolic of rebirth. A crow and and a crab argue about which way is the best to die. In answer, the crab crawled into a hole to shed its carapace and grow a new one.
That Joan chose to have Greta assume a shape that would appear ridiculous to all, a crab, again fits in with Caliban. In McCraw's case, it's not that she is ridiculous, only that she appears to be so by conventional standards.
Whatever it is that McCraw is wearing on her lapel as decoration, it isn't the sedate timepiece on Appleyard's bodice. It appears to be of the animal kingdom, resembling something even crustacean?
Metamorphosis. Death and rebirth. One wonders about the child Minnie and Tom shall have, its presence first alerted to the reader by Minnie's experiencing a "delicious little shoot of pain...through her stomach" as Mrs. Appleyard tells her that Sara's guardian is coming to visit and how she will watch for him. This is a lie, Mrs. Appleyard is aware that Sara has gone missing after a discussion she had with her, presumably another one about returning her to the orphanage (the book doesn't for some reason divulge this particular discussion). That Minnie experiences sensation in her womb during the telling of this lie is curious, and lends one to wonder if Joan wasn't hinting that Sara would return as a child of Minnie and Tom. In the Aboriginal view it seems that would very well be possible.
While we're on the subject of metamorphosis, laurel is several times mentioned in the book, usually having to do with the laurel on which Michael stuck his flags during his search for those who had disappeared. The last mention of laurel stands out as a curious one, occurring after Irma has met Albert in person and thanked him for his role in rescuing her.
It was exactly three o'clock. There is no single instant on this spinning globe that is not, for millions of individuals, immeasurable by ordinary standards of time: a fragment of eternity forever unrelated to the calendar of the striking clock. For Albert Crundall, the brief conversation by the lake would inevitably be expanded, in memory, during his fairly long life, to fill the entire content of a summer afternoon...Now ten minutes later in the damp seclusion of the shrubbery he sank down on to the empty barrow and wiped the sweat from his hands and face. He had plenty of time in which to recover his mental and physical equilibrium, since he knew, with absolute certainty, that he would never speak to Irma Leopold again.
Albert had no sooner disappeared through a gap in the laurel hedge when, with the precise timing of three wooden figures on a Swiss clock, Mike came out of the house and Irma--there is always a little wooden lady--appeared at the boathouse door. She stood there, watching him hurry towards her, limping a little...
Laurel, in Greek myth, concerns Apollo's pursuit of Daphne, whose name means laurel. After Apollo killed Python with his arrows, sighting Cupid with his own arrows he mocked him for using a man's weapons and told him to content himself with using his arrows for stirring love. So Cupid prepared two arrows that would have opposite effects. He wounded Apollo with one that would cause him to fall in love with Daphne. He struck Daphne instead with an arrow that would cause her to flee Apollo, but she was already dedicated to remaining a virgin.
Even like this Phoebus loved her and, placing his hand against the trunk, he felt her heart still quivering under the new bark. He clasped the branches as if they were parts of human arms, and kissed the wood. But even the wood shrank from his kisses, and the god said 'Since you cannot be my bride, you must be my tree! Laurel, with you my hair will be wreathed, with you my lyre, with you my quiver. You will go with the Roman generals when joyful voices acclaim their triumph, and the Capitol witnesses their long processions. You will stand outside Augustus's doorposts, a faithful guardian, and keep watch over the crown of oak between them. And just as my head with its uncropped hair is always young, so you also will wear the beauty of undying leaves.'
Ovid's Metamorphoses interpreted by Kline
Snakes (lizards/dragons) again. With the killing of Python, its oracular powers were assimilated into Apollo, though some say Python has become confused with Typhon, the female version, and that Python continued to be shown as guarding the Omphalos, the sacred navel-stone, mid-point of the earth, over which Apollo's temple was built.
We have the problem of two powers/gods being actually intimately connected rather than enemies, as so happens with Python and Apollo.
Apollo spoke through his oracle; she had to be an older woman of blameless life chosen from among the peasants of the area. She sat on a tripod seat over an opening in the earth (the "chasm"). When Apollo slew Python, its body fell into this fissure, according to legend, and fumes arose from its decomposing body. Intoxicated by the vapours, the sibyl would fall into a trance, allowing Apollo to possess her spirit. In this state she prophesied.
While in a trance the Pythia "raved" -- probably a form of ecstatic speech -- and her ravings were "translated" by the priests of the temple into elegant hexameters. It has been speculated that a gas high in ethylene, known to produce violent trances, came out of this opening, though this theory remains debatable.Ancient sources describe "laurel", or sweet bay, being used by the priestess, in order to inspire her prophecies. A review of contemporary toxicological literature indicates that oleander causes symptoms similar to those of the Pythia, and a study of ancient texts shows that oleander was often included under the term "laurel". So it is likely that the Pythia used oleander prior to her oracular pronouncements, chewing its leaves and inhaling their smoke. The toxic substances of oleander resulted in symptoms similar to those of epilepsy, the "sacred disease," which amounted to the possession of the Pythia by the spirit of Apollo, an event that made the Pythia his spokesperson, and subsequently, his prophetess. The oracle could not be consulted during the winter months, for this was traditionally the time when Apollo would live among the Hyperboreans. Dionysus would inhabit the temple during his absence.
Python's coils should remind of the eternal recurrence when one considers his oracular powers. It knows the future because it is the property of those spirals. We find in this story a similarity to the knowing serpent of Genesis, already discussed, and the enmity between human and the serpent, so that the head of one is ever bruised by the heel of the other. Immediately after Genesis tells us of the enmity between the serpent and Eve, it gives the next part of the story of Eve's desire now being ever for her husband and he lording it over her, which is interpreted as an assertion of masculine dominance over the feminine as a punishment for Eve's temptation of Adam, but one may also see in this a circularity that pursues itself and never quite possesses itself.
Daphne is modeled upon Artemis/Diana, the virgin goddess who is Apollo's twin. So one can see, in the story of Apollo's pursuit of Daphne, his longing ever after a part of him that flees him.
An interesting drawing of Apollo exists, done by Albrecht Durer, that I was recently studying. Apollo holds an orb of light and within it APOLO is written backwards, with only one L. Durer did several versions, based on the sculpture, the Apollo Belvedere, in which Apollo is depicted after having just slain Python, holding a bow in his left hand, the arrow just released. Rather than holding the bow, Durer places in Apollo's left hand the backwards APOLO orb of light, which gives some difficulty in that Apollo is light so how is it he is observing himself as light.
Apollo was first of all a god of light, a sun-god-without sun however, being the sun represented by a special divinity, Helios. From this arose his epithets: Phoebus, the "brilliant"; Xanthus, the "fair"; Chrysocomes, "of the golden lock"'; as such he delighted in "high places, the frowning peaks of high mountains, wave-lapped, beetling promontories". This god of the light was the son of Latona or Leto -- probably a double of the Asiatic Lada -- who was undoubtedly a divinity of the night.
Joan certainly had Apollo in mind when crafting Michael, and I have shown previously how he can be peculiarly compared to the serpent of Genesis, or Python.
Together Michael and Irma had explored every inch of the Colonel's rose garden...the shrubberies whose winding walks ended in delicious little arbours, ideal for the playing of childish games--Halma and Snakes and Ladders...There is no need for conversation...Sometimes Irma finds herself chattering as she used to do long ago at school, for the sheer delight of tossing out words into the bright air...Unnecessary for Mike to answer, or even to listen, so long as he is there beside her, leaning over the rail with a lock of thick hair falling over one eye with every turn of his head, and aiming pebbles at the gaping mouth of the stone frog in the pool...At the landing stage the lilies were already closed and secret in half-light. A white swan was rising gracefully out of the reeds ahead. They stood for a moment watching it flapping away over the water until it disappeared amongst the willows on the opposite bank. It was like this that Irma would later remember Michael Fitzhubert most clearly. Quite suddenly he would come to her in the Bois de Boulogne, under the trees in Hyde Park; a lock of fair hair hanging over one eye, his face half turned to follow the flight of a swan.
The above follows directly after Irma's brush with Albert and Joan's mention of the ever-present "wooden lady". Mike and Irma have bonded and explored the garden. And then the seasons change. In the northern hemisphere, summer is approaching via spring. In the southern, winter approaches via autumn. Their days of going out in a little boat on the lake are over. Irma tells Mike that Miranda had said that everything began and ended at the right time and place. Mike, who appears to love Irma, will now suddenly reject her. And she will ever after remember him with that lock of fair hair, his face in half-light.
Weir represents that half-light in Michael's fevered dream on the rock, as the corona of Edith's hat crosses over his face. It is when the crown perfectly divides his face, one half shining bright within the hat's circlet, the other half outside the crown and in shadow, that Michael starts awake and on his forehead appears (and stays) the wound that he shares with Irma. Coincidentally, his closed left hand in which he firmly grips his vest, is superimposed over the exposed palm of Edith's dirtied right hand so that they seem to meld together. Later, that vest disappears and instead Weir has Michael grasping a scrap of lace in it, presumably a remnant from one of the girl's dresses, but if we compare the scrap to the dresses of the girls it is impossible to say what the source is, none apparently matching, so perhaps from an undergarment.
Joan's description of Mike is that of Apollo-Python. Apollo of the fair lock. A description of pursuit and times of quiescence, of co-existence, of Irma and Mike being together and understanding each other so implicitly he hardly needs to say anything. And then the seasons change. The equinox comes, a time of equal weights followed by a switch in dominance of light and dark, and Irma and Mike are separated, he reminded by Miranda, via Irma's reminiscence of her, that everything has its beginning and ending.
We can clearly see what has happened in Giovanni Antonio Bazzi's version of Apollo and Daphne. Having just shot Python, Apollo stands above Python curled at his feet. Still holding his bow in his left hand, Apollo faces right. In the upper right, Cupid has just appeared, holding his own bow but in his right hand, mirroring Apollo but he is in Cupid form as an infant (in some stories Apollo killed Python at the age of 4 days). Daphne also appears at the same time, fleeing Apollo as she runs to the right, the laurel between them. When Apollo shoots Python he is also shooting himself. We have Apollo the adult as the ending, and Cupid as the beginning, mirroring one another, Apollo having shot Python even as Cupid shoots Apollo so that Apollo's longing is for Daphne (Artemis) who ever flees him.
Just as the description of Mike fits that of Apollo, Irma's fits that of Python, she repeatedly characterized by her dark ringlets, whereas Miranda has straight hair. When Irma is found, her dark ringlets are coated with dust and blood.
In the above drawing of Apollo and Diana, by Durer, Apollo prepares to draw his arrow in order to kill the python. Diana sits facing him, a stag resting on her lap.
In another of Duer's drawings of Apollo and Artemis/Diana, she is seated below him as he draws back his arrow to unleash it on python. Diana has turned from him and her head is now decorated with the stag horns.
In Durer's drawing of Apollo and Artemis/Diana in which he holds the APOLO orb, his twin, Artemis/Diana is seated below, turned from him, her head is unseen, seemingly obliterated by the light of the orb he holds in his left hand, the orb replacing the bow of Apollo Belvedere.
This may help explain why when Irma first sees the "fair-haired" Mike by the stream, she turns away and doesn't look at him again. This sounds like enmity, pushing away, yet she reveals that she did so because she recognized him as her beloved. Then in Mike's dreams, when he breaks off with her, when she invites him to sit next to her, he pushes her away with his umbrella, the umbrella being itself a symbol of their relationship.
In the book, when Irma leaves Appleyard College, Mrs. Appleyard scolds her for going out into the world too soon with too little education, for if Irma leaves then Appleyard will have lost a pupil off which she has made great financial profit, and there also exits from the school the allure of Irma's privilege which was a draw for others. But Mrs. Appleyard is no longer faced with a "student" in Irma. Irma doesn't bend to her will, and all that Mrs. Appleyard can think to do is challenge Irma on her spelling. A person of her station should know better how to spell. Rather than being humiliated, Irma retorts that spelling ability would not have saved her at Hanging Rock and anything of benefit she learned at Appleyard was from Miranda.
There are letters written by the characters that are duplicated in the book (in fact, Albert, who helped save Irma, has three letters of his given in the book that show he is unable to spell at all) and it occurred to me that Mrs. Appleyard's challenge to Irma on her spelling meant that we should look at Irma's one transcribed letter that was to Mademoiselle Poitiers. She is readying to leave Australia and will be staying at the Menzies Hotel while she waits the arrival of her parents from India. After talking about how she will be visiting the school she writes, "Dianne I haven't had a chance to buy your wedding present--Manassa's Store has nothing but boots and jam darling and tin billy cans--so please accept my emmerald bracelet with my love--the one my Grandmother in Brazil gave me the one I told you about with the green parrot--remember? anyway now dead so she won't know or mind. Mrs. C. wants to know about the blue chiffon you used to like I must go."
Irma has misspelled emerald. Is our attention being specifically called to the word "emerald"? Curious as it may seem, "emerald" derives from the Semitic baraq, shine, which can be compared with the Hebrew word for emerald, bareqeth, and the Arabic barq, "lightning". From there I turn to Al-Buraq (the same as that "lightning"), the steed upon which Muhammed took his journey through the heavenly spheres all on one night.
Don't shake your head in derision just yet, this is leading somewhere.
From D'Ohsson's Tableau General de l'Empire Othoman:
In the seventeenth sura of the Koran it is written that upon a certain night Mohammed was transported from the temple at Mecca to that of Jerusalem, but no details are given of the strange journey. In the Mishkateu 'l-Masabih, Mohammed is made to describe his ascent through the seven heavens into the icy presence of the may-veiled God and his subsequent return to his own bed, all in a single night. Mohammed was awakened in the night by the Angel Gabriel, who, after removing the Prophet's heart, washed the cavity with Zamzam water, and filled the heart itself with faith and science. A strange creature, called Alborak, or the lightning bolt, was brought for the conveyance of the Prophet. Alborak is described as white animal of the shape and size of a mule, with the head of a woman and the tail of a peacock. According to some versions, Mohammed merely rode Alborak to Jerusalem, where, dismounting upon Mount Moriah, he caught hold of the lower rung of a golden ladder lowered from heaven and, accompanied by Gabriel, ascended through the seven spheres separating he earth from the inner surface of the empyrean. At the gate of each sphere stood me of the Patriarchs, whom Mohammed saluted as he entered the various planes. At the gate of the first heaven stood Adam; at the gate of the second, John and Jesus (sisters' sons); at the third, Joseph; at the fourth, Enoch; at the fifth, Aaron; at the sixth, Moses; and at the seventh, Abraham. Another order of the Patriarchs and prophets is given which places Jesus at the gate of the seventh heaven, and upon reaching this Point Mohammed is said to have requested Jesus to intercede for him before the throne of God.
We see in the illustration above the Kaaba (cube) in which is housed the sacred Black Stone, a meteorite. Al-Buraq, frequently visualized as having the bust of a woman, flies above.
After Michael fails to meet Irma for lunch at his uncle's, after the terrible storm that ensues, one of the worst of the area, with attendant zigzags of lightning, after Irma reads Michael's chilly letter stating he has been called away by his banker, we have this in Picnic at Hanging Rock:
Although we are necessarily concerned, in a chronicle of events, with physical action by the light of day, history suggests that the human spirit wanders farthest in the silent hours between midnight and dawn. Those dark fruitful hours, seldom recorded, whose secret flowerings breed peace and war, loves and hates, the crowning or uncrowning of heads. What, for instance, is the plump little Empress of India planning in bed in a flannel nightgown at Balmoral, on this night in March in the year nineteen hundred, that makes her smile and purse her small obstinate mouth? Who knows?
When Michael rises the following morning he has spent the night dreaming of banks and packing.
Are we to pay attention to "emmerald" and think of Mohammed's night flight? What of Manassa? The town's store which hasn't much in the way of a stock of goods.
Manasseh means "causing to forget", coming from the Hebrew nashah, also "to forget". Another nashah, identical to it (in the sense of nasha, lending on interest, identical with nasha, to lead estray, delude, seduce) is to lend or borrow on security or interest.
As it turns out, Manasseh and the Night Journey through the Seven Spheres are connected. First there was Manasseh, son of Joseph, whose "forgetfulness" was in the positive sense of God causing Joseph to forget his troubles. But then there's Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, who I have already brought up in the section on the attack on Irma, for it is by way of Manasseh and his said sacrifice of children (of innocents) that the hell of Gehenna came to be. The place was also called toph as "the cries of children being sacrificed by the priests of Moloch [and Baal] were masked by the sound of the beating on drums or tamborines, or from taph or toph meaning to burn." (Wikipedia).
As Marion and the others stood, in the heat, upon the frozen lava of the rock, looking down upon the plain below, the book gives them as seeing the following: "The plain below was just visible; infinitely vague and distant. Peering down between the boulders Irma could see the glint of water and tiny figures coming and going through the drifts of rosy smoke, or mist...The ants and their business were dismissed without further comment. Although Irma was aware, for a little while, of a curious sound coming up from the plain, like the beating of far-off drums."
It seems to me, again, that Joan was interested in bringing Manasseh into the story. There is no reason for the girls to be seeing fires (Hussey had a small one), or to be hearing drums, unless we consider more glitches in time so that they are viewing and hearing people search for them. Hussey's account of the search that night states, "As it grew later and darker--we had no means of knowing the time except by the sinking sun--we lit a number of fires along the creek in such a way that they could be seen from various angles by anyone in this side of the Rock. We also kept on cooeing as loudly as we could singly and all together. I got the two billies and beat on them with the crowbar I always keep in the drag for emergencies."
Off in their own time frame (Edith still with them though the fires and drums occur in the evening), the girls from their place on the mount only vaguely wonder what is happening below then dismiss it. They turn and see the monolith.
Though we have the fires and drums situated in a rational time-line of the story, that time-line disintegrates on the mount. And the account of the concerned seeking the lost girls doesn't dismiss Joan also alluding to Manasseh.
Old Testament Peseudodepigrpha (from the Babylonian and Jerusalem talmuds) covers the reign of Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, during which the prophet Isaiah was persecuted. Manasseh forgets the commandments of his father, Hezekiah, and eventualy executes Isaiah, who had had a vision in which he was taken up through the Seven Heavens. The account is long and I won't go into it here or the prophesies of Isaiah which were interpreted one way by Jews and another way by Christians. What's significant to me is that Joan has positioned the mention of the emerald in proximity of Manassa, and the storm with its lightning in proximity of night journeys and a "Bal", thus having a convergence of Manasseh and a prophet's night journey through the Seven Heavens (as with Mohammed on Al-Buraq). The Empress of India is actually Queen Victoria and Balmoral her Scottish home, so that Joan is again suggesting Anglo Victorians as sacrificers of their children to "Bal", which isn't surprising considering my earlier discussion on the poems Joan chooses to open her book with, each having children sacrificed to country and by the hubris of their parents. In the case of the boy who doesn't leave the burning deck, his loyalty and love also cause his sacrifice.
"Doomed to die, of course! Like that boy who stood on the burning deck, whence all but he had fled, tra...la la...I forget the rest of it," Irma had said on the rock, speaking of Sara, but which had caused Edith to ask if she was doomed as well.
If the book had been written in 1900, it would be a critique of Victorian society alone, and it is a critique of Victorian society, but Joan was writing in 1966, and so she likely had in mind a critique of contemporary society.
To pull the knot more tightly together, we should remember that McCraw, clasping her Al-Gebra book (she had hoped to do a lesson on Algebra with Marion at Hanging Rock) had remarked, "The mountain comes to Mahommed, Hanging Rock comes to Mr. Hussey." Algebra is Arabic al and jabr, which means the reunion of broken parts. The mathematical sense is "the science of restoring what is missing and equating like with like", just as McCraw makes a like with like comparsion between Hussey's wagon and the girls and Hanging Rock, and Mohammed and his mountain. Mohammed's "mountain" refers to his Night Journey through the Seven Heavens (or Seven Heavenly Spheres). On their way to Hanging Rock, McCraw is given as listening to the Music of the Spheres, an ancient, and Pythagorean concept, on the harmony of the celestial bodies (or seven spheres).
For convenience, from Manly P. Hall's The Secret Teachings of All Ages:
Pythagoras conceived the universe to be an immense monochord, with its single string connected at its upper end to absolute spirit and at its lower end to absolute matter--in other words, a cord stretched between heaven and earth. Counting inward from the circumference of the heavens, Pythagoras, according to some authorities, divided the universe into nine parts; according to others, into twelve parts. The twelvefold system was as follows: The first division was called the empyrean, or the sphere of the fixed stars, and was the dwelling place of the immortals. The second to twelfth divisions were (in order) the spheres of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the sun, Venus, Mercury, and the moon, and fire, air, water, and earth. This arrangement of the seven planets (the sun and moon being regarded as planets in the old astronomy) is identical with the candlestick symbolism of the Jews--the sun in the center as the main stem with three planets on either side of it.
The names given by the Pythagoreans to the various notes of the diatonic scale were, according to Macrobius, derived from an estimation of the velocity and magnitude of the planetary bodies. Each of these gigantic spheres as it rushed endlessly through space was believed to sound a certain tone caused by its continuous displacement of the æthereal diffusion. As these tones were a manifestation of divine order and motion, it must necessarily follow that they partook of the harmony of their own source. "The assertion that the planets in their revolutions round the earth uttered certain sounds differing according to their respective 'magnitude, celerity and local distance,' was commonly made by the Greeks. Thus Saturn, the farthest planet, was said to give the gravest note, while the Moon, which is the nearest, gave the sharpest. 'These sounds of the seven planets, and the sphere of the fixed stars, together with that above us [Antichthon], are the nine Muses, and their joint symphony is called Mnemosyne.'" (See The Canon.)This quotation contains an obscure reference to the ninefold division of the universe previously mentioned.
The Greek initiates also recognized a fundamental relationship between the individual heavens or spheres of the seven planets, and the seven sacred vowels. The first heaven uttered the sound of the sacred vowel Α (Alpha); the second heaven, the sacred vowel Ε (Epsilon); the third, Η (Eta); the fourth, Ι (Iota); the fifth, Ο (Omicron); the sixth, Υ (Upsilon); and the seventh heaven, the sacred vowel Ω (Omega). When these seven heavens sing together they produce a perfect harmony which ascends as an everlasting praise to the throne of the Creator. (See Irenæus' Against Heresies.) Although not so stated, it is probable that the planetary heavens are to be considered as ascending in the Pythagorean order, beginning with the sphere of the moon, which would be the first heaven.
Forgetting is a strong theme in the book. In the film, yes, we have the problem of Edith forgetting what happened on the rock, of Michael forgetting portions, of Irma forgetting completely what had happened on the rock. The doctor encourages Irma to forget about everything and move on, which is one thing. Albert encourages Michael to forget about everything and move on before Michael convinces Albert to help him search the rock--but Michael's passion, stating that he will never forget, ends up convincing Albert. There are many things in the book that are forgotten. But we also, very quickly, have people encouraging that all forget what has happened, which is odd considering three people have disappeared. The art teacher who wants to take in Sara says,
"You can't think what horrible things people are saying about all this in the city, though I tell everyone it's best forgotten." And what happens? The note that she gives Tom which would let Sara know she could come live with her ends up being forgotten and crammed to the back of a drawer.
On the morning that Mike leaves, having had the call from his bank, we have, "At Manassa's store an occasional customer calling in for the morning paper enquired with flagging interest. ' Anything more about the College Mystery?' There wasn't--at least nothing that could be remotely classed as news on Manassa's verandah. It was generally conceded by the locals that the goings-on at the Rock were over and done with and best forgotten."
So soon to forget.
ANAMNESIS--remembrance, the rediscovery of previously possessed knowledge--a philosophical epistemological theory that interprets human knowledge exclusively as a process of remembrance, of making present to oneself that which is necessary (ideas).
In European philosophy there are three conceptions of anamnesis. Plato was the author of the first, mainly in his dialogues Meno (81b-d; 85 d-86 b), Phaedo (72c-76 d), and Phaedrus (249 c). The Platonic theory of anamnesis was influenced by Orphism and Pythagoreanism and presupposed a belief in the transmigration of souls and the theory of the pre-existence of the soul. According to the theory of anamnesis, man discovers in his memory knowledge acquired during previous incarnations of his soul. The immortal soul knows the truth about universal ideas and values whose objects cannot be material concrete beings. Sense perception of the visible world is only an occasion to recall knowledge the soul already possesses. This interpretation of human knowledge for the first time took up the problem of a priori knowledge, but explained it in a different way than Kantianism or neo-Kantianism. The Platonic theory of anamnesis was taken upon by neo-Platonists, including Plotinus and Porphyry, and Christian thinkers such as Bishop Nemesius of Edessa and Boethius.
St. Augustine had a different interpretation of anamnesis than did Plato. As a Christian, St. Augustine rejected the theory of the pre-existence of the soul (De lib. arbit., 3, 20, 57; Sol., 2, 19, 35; De Trin., 12, 15, 24; Epist., 7, 1-2). He thought that the object of anamnesis was not ideas known in the past but eternal truths independent of the conditions of space and time. Man knows these eternal truths by divine illumination which helps the natural abilities of his cognitive powers. In this interpretation, anamnesis is connected with the theory of illumination and moderate epistemological apriorism which prefers introspection with respect to knowledge of God and of the human soul.
Another form of anamnesis is the theory of nativism. Descartes and Leibniz held this theory. They thought that when God created man, he endowed man with knowledge of basic religious, philosophical, and moral truths.
G. Stanger, Die platonische Anamnesis, Rudolfswert 1885; F. J. Thonnard, Theorie de la reminiscence, in: Oeuvres de saint Augustin, P 1952, VI 475-474; F. Cayre, La contemplation augustinienne, P 1954; N. Gulley, Plato's Theory of Knowledge, Lo 1962, 4-40; F. Casada, La teoria de la "memoria Die" en la tradicion escolastica augustiniana, La ciudad de Dios 177 (1964), 5-43, 201-233; J. Moreau, Le sens de platonisme, P 1965; M. F. Sciacca, Platone, I, M: 1967; W. Schmidt-Dengler, Die "aula memoriae" in den "Confessiones" des heiligen Augustin, Revue des études anciennes 14 (1968), 69-89; S. Kowalczyk, Czowiek i Bog w nauce sw. Augustyna [Man and God in the doctrine of St. Augustine], Wwa 1987, 167-187; Reale II 189-201; B. Dembinski, Teoria idei. Ewolucja mysli platonskiej [Theory of ideas. Evolution of Platonic thought], Ka 1997, 19992, 80-90.
From the Internet version of the "Universal Encyclopedia of Philosophy"
With the concept of cyclical time, anamnesis, and eternal recurrence (we're not done with eternal recurrence yet), there enters the problem of forgetting and remembering and remembering as knowledge itself, gnosis.
Joan, in her way, forges a connection between Hanging Rock and Appleyard, and then Weir in his own way does as well.
I noted earlier that the breakfast at Appleyard begins with a cherub/Cupid statuette being carried in, dedicated to St. Valentine, while at Hanging Rock Irma wears on her breast, above her heart, the pin of a cherub/Cupid holding an arrow. The garden of Appleyard has its own gate and then much is made of Miranda opening the gate at Hanging Rock. While the students are at Hanging Rock, the white turkeys back at Appleyard appear to mimic them (which is a Weir touch). Appleyard at one end and Hanging Rock at the other, the magma extrusions forming their own ancient, formidable fence about the garden that is Hanging Rock on the far side of time from Appleyard.
Weir several times focuses on the stairs (especially exterior) at Appleyard as if forging a parallel to the ascent at Hanging Rock.
As the schoolgirls leave for Hanging Rock, Weir has Sara at the height of Appleyard College looking down upon Miranda and Miranda gazing back up at her. A parallel seems to be made with the high places of Hanging Rock.
Mike leaves his little white "flags" all up Hanging Rock, like a clew tracing where he has been, and there are flags all over the College, hanging from a flag pole outside, descending here and there from portraits of Queen Victoria.
Weir gives us a visual towards the beginning of the film that may have a correspondance with these rectangular flags Mike leaves on the rock, which become part of a pattern for Albert.
Marion takes a flower she has been given and places it in a press between two blotting papers. The pressing of the flower and its preservation of the moment can be perhaps taken as a metaphor for the eternal moment. The act of pressing the flower between the blotter papers, the "pincer" of the compass alongside, seems even to be a glyph for McCraw's transition at the hole in the 18th chapter.
The raddled face was radiant...the long-boned torso was flattening itself out on the ground beside the hole, deliberately forming itself to the needs of a creature created to creep and burrow under the earth. The thin arms, crossed behind the head with its bright staring eyes, became the pincers of a giant crab that inhabits mud-caked billabongs. Slowly the body dragged itself inch by inch through the hole...
We also find in the compass the needle that corresponds to the thorns and branch tips that puncture Mike's papers through.
Another visual is the triangle in the window seen just before Marion presses the flower.
One may be reminded of McCraw's crossing of her thin arms behind her head so that they resemble the pincers of a crab.
A particularly interesting triangle at the college, which I've held off on mentioning until now, is one in Mrs. Appleyard's study. It is the frame of a mirror.
We first see it in the study while Mrs. Appleyard anxiously awaits the return of the girls from the rock.
After Irma is found, a painting from now on appears beneath the triangular mirror. It hadn't been there before.
Recollect that it is after Michael's ordeal on the rock and his finding Irma that the portrait of Lord Byron changes so that it shows a mark on the forehead. So, too, does this mirror change then so that it has the painting beneath it.
The same painting also appears at the Fitzhubert home. We see it as the officer and doctor ascend the steps to examine Irma.
Whether the painting was always there at the Fitzhubert home, or appears at the same time it does at Appleyard, we don't know. Colonel Fitzhubert stands on the case with two identical dogs, which is as if to signal to us that we have twins, that there are two paintings, one here and one at Appleyard college.
The painting is Sir Frederic Leighton's 1895 "Flaming June". A woman in orange sleeps in a fetal position in the June heat. We see oleander above her. In the ancient world oleander was used interchangeably with laurel, the bushes upon which Michael stuck his flags in the book. As I've discussed earlier, that laurel, I believe, connects with the story of Daphne and Apollo, so the oleander of "Flaming June", at least in its use in the film, may refer to that laurel and to the laurel/oleander used by the oracular Pythian priestesses, though their trances were also said to be induced by the decaying body of Python, the tripod seat of the priestess set on a fissure out of which supposedly arose the fumes of the decaying Python, it having fallen into that fissure when slain by Apollo.
Both the painting at the Fitzhubert home and the one at the college are cropped down from the original, and this also adds to the confusion, in that they are both cropped down.
Below the painting at the Fitzhubert home there is an image of a great log being sawn in half. One could go for the colloquial "sawing logs" and that it too refers to sleep. And the painting at the college rests above a couch/sofa upon which one may sleep.
But we already have much being made over a felled tree in the film and this shouldn't be ignored.
Edith had sat on a felled tree early on in the ascent up the rock. She had complained about the rock being nasty, and later about feeling quite ill. Later, the police take her to the mount, hoping to jog her memory. She sits upon a felled tree and is questioned if this could be the same felled tree. She doesn't know and becomes irritated. We can see why. The felled tree upon which Edith sat during her ascent is almost exactly like the second tree, but not. They are different. But they look very much alike, both even forming as if the angle of one of Joan's triangles.
Though Edith isn't able to identify if this is the fallen tree or not, she doesn't remember, her memory is jogged enough that she recollects a red cloud that she saw after she passed McCraw going up the hill in her pantalons or drawers.
Which log is it? Two logs representing the same thing and which one is truth. This is why we have two words now for McCraw's attire as she ascended the mount. Was she in her pantalons or was she in drawers. Pantaloons comes from a clownish figure in old Italian comedies who wore tight trousers on skinny legs, this deriving from San Pantaleone, the martyr, whose name may be of Greek origin and means "all-compassionate" or "entirely lion". Which is it? When Edith remembers McCraw she laughs because she was funny, like this clown figure. But then immediately after this scene we have the officer and Dianne going to Miranda and Sara's room to get from some drawers a pair of Miranda's pantaloons/drawers.
John Jamieson's' An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language gives:
Fr. Pantaleon, the proper name of a man, by corruption, as it is said, from Pantaleemon,, as expressed by the Greeks. A saint, called Pantaleemon, being worshipped, not only in the East, but in the countries of Europe, his name was changed to Pantaleon;according to the account given in the Dict. de Trevoux. Pantaleemon signifying entirely merciful, the other term means entirely cruel, or cruel as a lion. It is probable, however, that as cruelty is not the characteristic of the lion, this name might be formed intentionally as expressive of intrepedity resembling that of this noble animal.
One couldn't have two more opposite meanings. Entirely compassionate or entirely cruel. So which is it? Which is the problem represented by Edith sitting on the log that may be the one upon which she sat earlier or not, she doesn't know. Which is the problem represented by the painting of "Flaming June" that is at the Fitzhubert home, and appears beneath the triangular mirror at the college after Irma is found.
This confusion of the pantalons and drawers is in the book and the film. Additionally, in the book, this is when Edith remarks she was "positive" it was McCraw ascending the rock as she was exactly the same shape as a "flat iron" (triangular) as Irma had once told her.
As for that peculiar red cloud that Edith sees coincidental with McCraw's flat iron shape in her pantaloons/drawers, one could also imagine Weir is depicting it in the flaming color of the dress the sleeper wears.
Now back to the painting of "Flaming June" at the college. Weir is absolutely conscious of what Joan was doing in the book for on the night that Mrs. Appleyard visits Sara in her room for the final time, she goes back down to her office and we hear her sobbing in the dark as Weir shows us the following images: Herbert Thomas Dicksee's 1900 "Watcher on the Hill" and two views of Leighton's "Flaming June", the first with the frame and the second without. These paintings and that triangular mirror are only in the film.
One certainly sees in this figure the sleeping forms of the girls on the rock.
After showing us these paintings in Appleyard's study, Weir then takes us back to Sara and Miranda's room to show Sara first still in her bed and then to show Sara's bed now empty. As if to refer to the sleeper in "Flaming June", that she has woken and risen.
These two paintings, at night, are colorless, as with the colorless twilight of the 18th chapter.
As it is presented to us, Mrs. Appleyard doesn't see Sara leap to her death (into hydrangeas in the book, through the greenhouse roof in the film) but at the very least she seems to suspect or know that Sara is dead. She sits crying in her office and the next morning begins making up lies that Sara's guardian, Mr. Cosgrove, had come for her. The movie leaves it at that and doesn't let us know that in the book Mr. Cosgrove does write after Sara's death, sending a check, asking for Mrs. Appleyard to purchase for Sara a party dress as he will be taking her to Sydney for Easter holiday.
The idea of the guardian takes us back to Michael and the guardian angel painting on the chest of drawers from which Miranda's pantaloons/drawers are taken after the interview with Edith on the log.
Mrs. Appleyard is desperate to preserve things as they are, to not change. One could say that in Sara Waybourne's stoop we find a tendency to circular time that Appleyard is continually fighting, fighting to keep things on a linear progression, as well as to keep Sara tied to Victorian principals and standards. But at the end of the film we have Mrs. Appleyard reminiscing on the stability of Bournemouth where nothing ever changed. For 40 years she and her husband went there for holidays and it was always the same.
"A late 1880s comment by Nietzsche, 'In an infinite period of time, every possible combination would at some point be attained,' has been cited to argue that Nietzsche dropped his plans to try to scientifically prove the theory because he realized that if he would have to eventually repeat life as it is, his presumption of infinite time means 'he' would also have to 'repeat' life differently, since every configuration of atoms and events will occur."
Towards the film's end, during the peculiar dinner scene with Dianne and Mrs. Appleyard, Mrs. Appleyard regales her with tales of holidays at Bournemouth before suddenly raging over the disappearance of McCraw, on whom she'd come to depend. Dianne's response is to ask if Sara Waybourne will be returning. What does Mrs. Appleyard reply? "Oh! Now where was I? Oh, yes! Bournemouth. What a delightful place! Nothing changed. Ever." The two Bournes are connected, Sara, whom Mrs. Appleyard has harangued throughout, has fought to keep her upright, and the utterly dependable Bournemouth where nothing ever changed. As if Sara is the ouroboros becoming manifest as it curves in on itself, like the dreamer in her fetal position. And things have been changing at Appleyard, and not just in a linear fashion, but as if with the eternal recurrence and its cycles we have other changes, such as the picture of the "Flaming June" suddenly making an appearance beneath the mirror. These seem to be the changes, perhaps, that Mrs. Appleyard has been fighting with all her might. Though Bournemouth is in the book, it is not in this particular episode with Dianne, so this is a Weir touch in which he understands there is a relationship between Waybourne and Bournemouth and highlights it.
That the first day should make the last, that the Tail of the Snake should return into its Mouth precisely at that time, and they should wind up upon the day of their Nativity, is indeed a remarkable Coincidence, which tho Astrology hath taken witty pains to salve, yet hath it been very wary in making Predictions of it.
Sir Thomas Browne
Everything has returned. Sirius, and the spider, and thy thoughts at this moment, and this last thought of thine that all things will return.
In the film, Miss McCraw travels to Hanging Rock in her black hat and disappears.
At the end of the film, Mrs. Appleyard, preparing to take her own journey to Hanging Rock, wears the same black hat as Miss McCraw wore on her journey. The flower decoration on the side is different, but it is the same hat, same veil.
Tying the end to the beginning. In the film, Weir has the girls riding off for Easter vacation in the same carriage that carried them to Hanging Rock. They pass around between them a spider conch, listening to the echo of the ocean that it holds. As they ride off they sing the round "Frere Jacques", which they had been singing and dancing a round to before leaving for Hanging Rock.
In the book, Mrs. Appleyard, at Hanging Rock, sees a black spider, then has a glimpse/vision of a single eye of Sara's staring out at her from a mask of rotting flesh. She jumps from a precipice to her death. It may be that Joan got her idea of the spider from Nietzsche. Weir returns us to the beginning with the round that had been sung before the Hanging Rock trip, only this time the Nietzschean spider accompanies. And that black hat with its web of a veil may be actually a visual for Nietsche's spider, which was "god" and the the web it wove. But his very final image is to have again Miranda as Venus waving to us then turning away to begin again her ascent of the rock.
Finally, the book ends by recalling the Marie Celeste. "Thus the College Mystery, like that of the celebrated case of the Marie Celeste, seems likely to remain forever unsolved." Note that Joan is not calling to mind the Mary Celeste, which was found abandoned On December 4, 1872, but Arthur Conan Doyle's retelling in the story J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement, in which the vessel was instead the Marie Celeste, the captain's name was changed, the date changed, the place of departure and destination also changed, and though many facts were retained, a wildly fictional solution was provided by a supposed eye-witness. Wikipedia states that this story helped popularize the Mary Celeste, as it reached a much broader audience than the original story, and was even reprinted by the Boston Herald as a true account.
Joan's introduction to Picnic reads, "Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction, my readers must decide for themselves. As the fateful picnic took place in the year nineteen hundred, and all the characters who appear in this book are long since dead, it hardly seems important." Though this is what appeared in print, she had rephrased it to read "fact or fiction or both" but the original version is what was published. The movie, on the other hand, simply states at the beginning that "On Saturday 14th February 1900 a party of schoolgirls from Appleyard College picnicked at Hanging Rock near Mt. Macedon in the state of Victoria. During the afternoon several members of the party disappeared without trace..." then follows with the voiced, "What we see and what we seem are but a dream, a dream within a dream", which is a paraphrasing from Poe's poem "A Dream Within a Dream". The first verse ends, "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream", which is an absolute statement. The second stanza instead ends with the question, "Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?" Though interviews give the quote as happily come across by happenstance, one could very well have provided instead, from The Tempest, Prospero's famous, "These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air; and like the baseless fabric of this vision, the cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself, yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, and, like this insubstantial pageant faded, leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep." But to quote Prospero might have placed Miranda to close in proximity to the Miranda of The Tempest for this particular dream to assume the life that it has.
Joan, born into privilege and comfortable prosperity in 1896, did attend a girl's school Clyde Girls Grammar School in East St. Kilda, from the years 1911 to 1914 (it was also a boarding school but Joan didn't board). The school was unlike Appleyard, rather large, academically rigorous with many graduates going on to careers unfathomable for the majority of women, and Joan wrote of the headmistress as being a person of compassion and love. Joan did well, was editor of the school magazine, was a dux one year and a prefect the next. She didn't care for math but a geometry teacher came along who sparked some interest with more visual instruction. So, the school wasn't the miserable Appleyard, but Joan, by her own account, still wasn't very happy there as she had a distaste for formal education. In 1919 that same school moved to the Woodend-Macedon area, with Macedon on one side and Hanging Rock on the other, a place with which Joan was familiar as her family would holiday at Macedon and picnic at Hanging Rock. Joan Lindsay: a time for everything states that there was actually a teacher, Miss McCraw, who was at the school while Joan was there and after, in December 1919 writing an article in The Cluthan on a photo excursion she led there, they reaching the summit in the dark and viewing the moon.
March 1923 A number of the members of the Clyde Old Girls' Association visited Clyde Girls' Grammar School (Woodend) on Saturday for the alumni reunion. Miss Tucker (acting headmistress) received the guests and entertained them at lunch. A busi- ness meeting followed and the following office-bearers were elected to the com- mittee:-President, Miss Millear; hon. sec., Miss F. Johnston; treasurer, Miss J. Falkiner. The old girls were gratified to learn that the pupils' roll at present is the largest since Clyde was established as a country school. It was decided to send a cable message to Miss Henderson con- veying the good wishes of the meeting. Miss Henderson is at present in England and is taking the opportunity of inspect- ing all the latest methods of' education. She is expected back at the end of the year. Amongst those' present on Satur- day were:- Misses C. Remington, H. McCraw, O. and L. Hay, V. Hiskens, P. Weigall, C. Maudsley, F. Johnston, E. Weigall, N. Laidlaw, J. McCulloch, L. Druce, N. Robinson, H. Fleming, E. Wre- ford, J. Webb, M. Cunningham, M. Strong, M. Edwards, J. Falkiner, J. Gilchrist, E. Webb-Ware, D. Widdis, M. Widdis, M. Taylor, and G. Brunton
Joan wrote poetry, pursued being an artist (she came from a famously artistic family), met her future husband on a Valentine's Day, and in 1922, on Valentine's Day, married (into another famously artistic family). She then sometimes pursued art but left the career of being an artist eventually to her husband, who was appointed as director of the National Gallery of Victoria in 1941. He, too, was interested in Aboriginal culture.
Benjamin Thomas, 'Daryl Lindsay and the appreciation of indigenous art: 'no mere collection of interesting curiosities' 4-BKT/1
In an era when the acceptance of Indigenous art within our galleries is assumed confidently as self-evident, it is easy to overlook how such a remarkable transformation occurred almost within the space of a decade. Even more misunderstood is the prominent role Daryl Lindsay played in the early acceptance and legitimisation of Australian indigenous art. Within months of becoming director of the NGV, Lindsay prepared a major exhibition of primitive art, including Australian indigenous works, an event that became the defining catalyst for a cultural shift towards indigenous art. In the early 1960s, in the influential role of chair of the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board, Lindsay advocated for the inclusion of 'Australian Aboriginal art, chosen for aesthetic merit' as a dedicated collecting stream in the future NGA. It was a decisive objective, and one that was a central tenet of his vision for Australian art. Yet it is clear that Lindsay's role in encouraging the re-evaluation of Australian Indigenous art remains poorly understood within the field of Australian gallery practice. Even within recent years, art historians have misattributed later events as being the catalyst for change, either positioning Lindsay as a reactionary late in his term as director, or placing him outside the formative years of the shift in attitude altogether. This paper explores Lindsay's young adult experiences in Central Australia, the backdrop for his empathy with Australian Indigenous culture, and the remarkable shift in Australian Art Museum practice undertaken during his directorship that saw Indigenous artefacts exhibited and appreciated for their artistic merit.
Joan wrote a few other books which are far less popular. Picnic at Hanging Rock, amazingly, was written when she was 70. She would have been 78 or about 78 when she met the actress playing Miranda, who that day was feeling fairly depressed about it, anxious with having to do a scene numerous times, her ego undercut by having been told she got the role because she was the right size. Joan went up to her, from across a field, and said, "Miranda, it's been so long."
When the poet depicts the various callings--such as those of the warrior, the silk-weaver, the sailor--he feigns to know all these things thoroughly, to be an expert. Even in the exposition of human actions and destinies he behaves as if he had been present at the spinning of the whole web of existence. In so far he is an imposter. He practices his frauds on pure ignoramuses, and that is why he succeeds. They praise him for his deep, genuine knowledge, and lead him finally into the delusion that he really knows as much as the individual experts and creators, yes, even as the great world-spinners themselves.
Nietzsche, Human, All--Too Human
Picnic at Hanging Rock has several endings. There's the film, in which Mrs. Applegate stares at the camera. There's the end that was filmed that didn't make it into the film, in which Mrs. Applegate climbs Hanging Rock. There's the book. And then there's the 18th chapter.
Irma had flung herself down on the rocks and was tearing and beating at the gritty face of the boulder with her bare hands. She had always been clever at embroidery. They were pretty little hands, soft and white.
It seems to me that we should think of Joan with this description, in the sense of embroidery as embellishment of the description or purporting of an event. And that she thus ends the book in remarking upon herself as a writer, her role as the writer, her cleverness, and her own passionate connection with the characters and story. They retired into the rock, and she remained outside to tell the tale.
In 1976 Rohmer did the film The Marquise of O, which I just today watched on Mubi. I'm not familiar with all of Rohmer's catalogue, but have watched a fair amount. The style of the film, a period piece, reminded me of Truffaut's The Story of Adele H and The Wild Child, not without reason I guess as the cinematographer was Nestor Almendros who also was cinematographer for these other two films. Aldros had also filmed, however, many of Rhomer's earlier works which had quite a different feel than these period pieces.
Anyway, it's through Rohmer's The Marquise of O that I became aware of Heinrich Von Kleist's story of 1808 on which it was based.
I better give a run down of The Marquise of O before I go into my reasons for thinking it's possible that Joan Lindsay may have been influenced by it and perhaps referenced it in Picnic at Hanging Rock.
The story concerns a Marquise, a widow of 3 years with two children, who is living with her parents, her father a Colonel and commander of a certain citadel that he was tasked with defending against the Russians. During a Russian attack, the Marquise became separated from her mother, children and servants and was about to be raped by some soldiers when a Russian officer, an "angel sent from heaven", rescued her.
"...he then addressed the lady politely in French, offered her his arm and led her into the other wing of the palace which the flames had not yet reached and where, having already been stricken speechless by her ordeal, she now collapsed in a dead faint. Then -- the officer instructed the Marquise's frightened servants, who presently arrived, to send for a doctor; he assured them that she would soon recover, replaced his hat and returned to the fighting."
Shortly, the Colonel surrendered to the same Russian officer, a Count F---. "...the Commandant, who had only continued to defend [the fortress] because he had not been offered amnesty, was withdrawing to the main gate with dwindling strength when the Russian officer, his face very flushed, came out through it and called on him to surrender. The Commandant replied that this demand was all that he had been waiting for, handed over his sword..." The Count then put men to work putting out the fires all about it, himself assisting and hosing out flames, "rolling out powder kegs and live grenades" to the amazement of all. The following morning when the General asked him to identify who had assaulted the Marquise so that they might be executed, he claimed he was unable to do so, which surprised the General as the citadel had been in flames. But one of the assailants was discovered, who named his fellows, and they were put to death.
The family of the Marquise wished to express their gratitude to the Count for his assistance, but they learned the day after he left the fortress he'd been killed.
"The messenger who brought this news to M-- had himself seen him, with a mortal bullet-wound in the chest, being carried to P--, where according to a reliable report he had died just as his bearers were about to set him down. The Commandant, going in person to the post-house to find out further details of what had happened, merely learnt in addition that on the battlefield, at the moment of being hit, he had cried out 'Giulietta! This bullet avenges you!', whereupon his lips had been sealed forever."
The Marquise was bitterly aggrieved.
The Marquise and her family have returned to a normal life when she begins to feel ill. When she tells her mother that the feelings remind her of when she was pregnant with her second child, "her mother remarked with a laugh that she would no doubt be giving birth to the god of Fantasy. The Marquise replied in an equally jesting tone that at any rate Morpheus, or one of his attendant dreams, must be the father."
Shortly after, Count F-- turns up at their door "looking as beautiful as a young god." Everyone objects that surely he is dead, but the Count assures them he is alive and turns his attentions to the Marquise, asking her how she is. When she says she's well, he answers she's not telling the truth, "to judge by her complexion, he said, she seemed strangely fatigued, and unless he was very much mistaken she was unwell, and suffering from some indisposition." He then begs her to marry him. The family, however, is still insistent on his proving he's not a ghost. How did he rise from the grave? He explains he had been mortally wounded and that he had "despaired of his life for several months" but had recovered and rejoined the army. He again implores for the hand of the Marquise in marriage, fervently so, the response being that they needed to be better acquainted, give it some time. He replies, "that during his whole journey here he had predicted to himself that this would be the outcome of his impatient desire; that the distress into which it plunged him was nevertheless extreme; that in view of the unfavourable impression which he knew must be created by the part he was at present forced to play, closer acquaintance could not fail to be advantageous to him; that he felt he could answer for his reputation, if indeed it was felt necessary to take into account this most dubious of all attributes; that the one ignoble action he had committed in his life was unknown to the world and that he was already taken steps to make amends for it; that, in short, he was a man of honour..." His parents were dead so he was his own master, he was quite rich and prepared to settle in Italy.
Later, he further explains his illness. "When he mentioned the engagement at P-- in the course of which he had been wounded, the Marquise's mother elicited from him an account of his illness, asking him how he had fared at so tiny a place and whether he had been provided there with all proper comforts. In answer he told them various interesting details relevant to his passion for the Marquise: how during his illness she had been constantly present to him, sitting at his bedside; how in the feverish delirium brought on by his wound he had kept confusing his visions of her with the sight of a swan, which, as a boy, he had watched on his uncle's estate; that he had been particularly moved by one memory, of an occasion on which he had once thrown some mud at this swan, whereupon it had silently dived under the surface and re-emerged, washed clean by the water; that she had always seemed to be swimming about on a fiery surface and that he had called out to her 'Tinka!', which had been the swan's name, but that he had not been able to lure her towards him. For she had preferred merely to glide about, arching her neck and thrusting out her breast. Suddenly, blushing scarlet, he declared that he loved her more than he could say..."
The Marquise was herself against marriage, as she had vowed after the death of her husband she'd not marry again. Finally, her family extracts from her the promise that, as she doesn't find him unattractive, sometime in the future she would consent "for the sake of the obligation under which he has placed me." Her family is delighted and the Count leaves to attend to military business.
Several more weeks passed and the Marquise "noticed an incomprehensible change in her figure." A doctor advises her she is pregnant. Shocked, the Marquise tells her mother, "I would sooner believe that graves can be made fertile and that new births can quicken in the womb of the dead!" A midwife was sent for to give her opinion, who seconded the doctor. The Marquise demands of her if such thing as unwitting conception is a phenomenon that exists in the realm of nature, and is told only in the case of the Blessed Virgin.
The Marquise's father immediately demands she leave their home and no amount of imploring will change his mind. She went off to live in seclusion and continue raising her children. "The only thing she found intolerable was the thought that the little creature she had conceived in the utmost innocence and purity and whose origin, precisely because it was more mysterious, also seemed to her more divine than that of other men, was destined to bear a stigma of disgrace in good society. An unusual expedient for discovering the father had occurred to her...She...felt the greatest repugnance at the thought of entering into any relationship with the person who had tricked her in such a fashion; for she most rightly concluded that he must after all irredeemably belong to the very scum of mankind...his origin could only be from its lowest, vilest dregs. But with her sense of her own independence growing ever stronger, and reflecting as she did that a precious stone retains its value whatever its setting may be, she took heart one morning, as she felt the stirring of the new life inside her, and gave instructions for the insertion in the...new-sheets of the extraordinary announcement..." Which was that she was pregnant, did not know by whom, and if the father of the child would present himself she would marry him.
When the Count returns he goes to the Marquise' father's home, and learning what has happened he exclaims, "Why were so many obstacles put in my way! If the marriage had taken place we should have been spared all this shame and unhappiness!" He rushes to see the Marquise, but she is seemingly horrified, questioning how could he after learning what he has about her. He replies he's fully convinced of her innocence. "'What!' cried the Marquise, rising to her feet and trying to free herself from him, 'and despite that you come here?' 'Despite the world...despite your family, and even your present enchanting appearance...as convinced, Giulietta, as I were omniscient, as if my soul were living in your body.'" She cries out for him to let her go. He insists he has come to repeat his proposal. "One secret, whispered word!" he says but she insists she doesn't want to hear anything and flees.
The Marquise's announcement is printed in the paper. The Colonel gives it to his wife to read, leaves the room, she follows him and finds him at his desk and asks what he thinks of it. "The Commandant continuing to write, said: 'Oh, she is innocent!' 'What!' exclaimed his wife, astonished beyond measure, 'innocent?' 'She did it in her sleep,' said the Commandant, without looking up. 'In her sleep!' replied his wife. 'And you are telling me that such a monstrous occurrence--' 'Silly woman!' exclaimed the Commandant, pushing his papers together and leaving the room."
The next day, in the paper, appears a response, that if the Marquise will be at her father's house at 11 am on the 3rd then the man she wishes to trace will "there cast himself at her feet." The Colonel reads the announcement 3 times and responds vigorously. "'Why, the infamous woman!' replied the Commandant, rising from the table, 'the sanctimonious hypocrite! The shamelessness of a bitch coupled with the cunning of a fox and multiplied tenfold are as nothing to hers! So sweet a face! Such eyes, as innocent as a cherub!...She is determined to force us to accept her contemptible pretence. She and that man have already learnt by heart the cock-and-bull story they will tell us when the two of them appear here...and I shall be expected to say...My dear little daughter, I did not know that, who could have thought such a thing, forgive me, receive my blessing, and let us be friends again...But I have a bullet ready for the man who steps across my threshold on the third...!"
The mother goes to the daughter, determined to find out whether she is innocent or not. She tells her that the man responsible has come to them. The Marquise begs to know who it was. The mother finally says it was the groom her father had hired, Leopardo, has confessed his responsibility. The Marquise accepts this. "'Oh, God in heaven!...it did once happen that I had fallen asleep in the mid-day heat, on my divan, and when I woke up I saw him walking away from it!' Her face grew scarlet with shame and she covered it with her little hands." The mother confesses her ruse, convinced her daughter is innocent and has no idea who the father is. She takes the daughter home (they joke about Leopardo on the way, the daughter blushing) and is able to convince her husband that the Marquise is innocent. Going to the Marquise, he sobs so that he is unable to speak. The mother leaves him in a room with her, to cook his dinner and and prepare his bed. "...she crept back to the Marquise's room to find out what on earth was going on. Putting her ear gently against the door and listening, she caught the last echo of some softly murmured words, spoken, as it seemed to her, by the Marquise; and looking through the keyhole she noticed that her daughter was even sitting on the Commandant's lap, a thing he had never before permitted. And when finally she opened the door she saw a sight that made her leap with joy: her daughter, with her head thrown right back and her eyes tightly shut, was lying quietly in her father's arms, while the latter, with tears glistening in his wide-open eyes, sat in the armchair, pressed long, ardent, avid kisses on to her mouth, just like a lover! His daughter said nothing, he said nothing; he sat with his face bowed over her, as if she were the first girl he had ever loved; he sat there holding her mouth near his and kissing her. Her mother felt quite transported with delight; standing unseen behind his chair, she hesitated to interrupt this blissful scene of reconciliation which had brought such joy back to her house. Finally, she approached her husband, and just as he was again stroking and kissing his daughter's mouth in indescribable ecstasy, she leaned around the side of the chair and looked at him. When the Commandant saw her he at once lowered his eyes again with cross expression and was about to say something; but she exclaimed: 'Oh, what a face to make!' And then she in her turn smoothed it out with kisses, and talked jestingly until the atmosphere of emotion was dispelled. She asked them both to come and have dinner, and as she led the way they walked along like a pair of betrothed lovers..."
At 11 on the appointed morning, it is the Count who appears, and the Marquise, horrified, refuses to accept him. Her mother begs him to "Comfort my daughter; then we shall all be reconciled, and all will be forgiven and forgotten." The Marquise exclaims she had expected a vicious man, but not "a devil!" She throws holy water on her family. She is eventually convinced to marry him if he doesn't demand conjugal rights. They are married, the child is born, the child is christened, the Count is exemplary in his behavior, he wins the Marquise' heart, they have a second marriage celebration, they have numerous children. One day many years later he asks her why she would have been willing to receive the most vicious of debauchees, but had fled from him as if from a devil. She had told him she would not have seen a devil in him if she had not seen an angel in him at their first meeting.
We have here one of the more peculiar stories I've ever read and I've read many many many stories.
The two things that made me think of Picnic at Hanging Rock were these. The stories of the swans in both are nearly identical. Also, in The Marquise of O we've a plot that, as long as the comic route isn't taken, as long as we pay attention to every scrap of information, is and must be ultimately mysterious and with no real closure, even more so than that Picnic at Hanging Rock in which we sense the possibilities of the 18th chapter even though it has been excised from the original publication.
The swans in Picnic at Hanging Rock and in The Marquise of O are identified with the female. In Picnic we have Michael who is haunted by the swan(s) at his uncle's, who confuses the white swan with Miranda, who while recuperating has visions of the white swan upon his bed. In The Marquise of O we again have an individual who is haunted by a swan at his uncle's, haunted again by the swan when he is ill and confuses it with the Marquise.
The swan in The Marquise of O has a name that becomes confused with the Marquise. It is Tinka. As far as I can tell this is German for Celeste, and the book form of Picnic at Hanging Rock ends with the mystery of the Marie Celeste, which I point out in my analysis isn't the same as the mystery of the Mary Celeste. The Marie Celeste was based, some parts truth, mostly fabricated, on the Mary celeste. Might it be that Joan was making an allusion to "Tinka/Celeste" of The Marquise of O by way of the Marie Celeste?
The story of the Marquise begins with the avowal that it is "based on a true incident", but that the setting has been transposed from the north to the south.
The Marquise of O deals with the threat of the subliminal, of archetypes that are reverenced in the spiritual realm but become grotesque in the human. Though the Marquise is the swan, she reminds of Zeus' assault of the virgin Leda in the form of the swan. The Marquise is visited by an "angel" or "god" who becomes a fallen angel, a devil. This fallen angel was played by Bruno Ganz in Rohmer's film, and Bruno would eventually go on to play the fallen angel in Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire, convinced to lose his wings and enter the mortal sphere after falling in love. With the Greco-Roman myth we have a double conception, more than just in the matter of twins, but with the birth of the immortal and mortal forms of twins, Leda having been raped (or seduced) by Zeus on the same night that she slept with her husband. The births are thus only partly a form of immaculate conception.
We are intended, with The Marquise of O, to take her side of the story as being presented faithfully, that she is hiding nothing from the reader. We are given the inner workings of her thoughts and she is absolutely distraught, with no idea how it is she could have become pregnant. She is so confused that, despite having already had two children, she wonders if it is possible, in nature, to be impregnated without intercourse, to which the midwife replies it was only possible in the case of the Blessed Virgin. She is similar to Michael and Irma in that she has no memory, and the depth of her sleeps can be compared to the those profound ones that befall the characters of Picnic at Hanging Rock. She is without knowledge of all that has occurred.
The audience is led by certain facts to within a few pages believe that the Count is the one responsible for her pregnancy. The author guides us in this assumption, having the Count show up with his marriage proposal as soon as we learn the Marquise has been ill with what are symptoms of pregnancy, and for some reason his first words to her are to negate her assurance that she is ill and adamantly insist all is not normal. He is so persistent that they must marry, stating he is making amends for a wrong he has committed (which he does not explicitly link with the Marquise), just as persistent when he later learns she is pregnant, and finally arranges for himself to be revealed as the father so that she has no choice but to marry him as she has publicly promised she will marry the father when he is revealed. Much has been made of the pregnant pause of the dash between his rescue of the Marquise and his delivering her to her servants, asking them to call a doctor but assuring them all will be well. After the story is completed, the reader looks back upon the pregnant pause of the dash and comprehends it as the moment of the rape. But the Count is a peculiar figure. He has died, yet then he has not. Stress is put upon the fact that people are utterly convinced he was dead, and he himself states he was "mortally" wounded. In the end, we assume that he is by his actions, that he has answered the Marquise's ad with one of his own announcing the father will materialize at such-and-such time then producing himself, which is a public acknowledgement of his guilt, but the prospect is left open that in his desire to wed the Marquise he might be accepting the role of fatherhood so that she has no choice but to marry him due her own public promise. As he steps forward, we see behind him a statue of a cupid-like figure in the traditional pose of St. Sebastian.
Or it may simply be that the Count sees himself, in coming forward even after the Marquise's announcement,
Many have ignored the scene in The Marquise of O in which the mother enters to find the Marquise on her father's lap and he lavishing her with kisses. Some translations are far more lascivious than what is had in the one I used.
We read that the father 'lange, heisse und lechzende Kusse [...] auf ihren Mund druckte: gerade wie ein Verliebter!'; 'pressed long, hot and licking kisses [...] on her mouth: exactly like a lover!'. At another point we read that he is 'wieder mit Fingern und Lippen in unssglicher Lust uber den Mund seiner Tochter beschsftigt'; 'busy again with his daughter's mouth, his fingers and lips with unspeakable lust'.
The fact that her head is thrown back and her eyes are shut fast reminds of the same deep sleep or faint into which she fell on the night of her supposed rape. Depicting her on the morning she breakfasts with her family when she has begun first feeling ill, Rohmer again has her head falling back in a deep languor, her father seemingly oblivious as he sits across from her. Rather than having her simply faint when rescued, he has her given poppy seed tea by a servant, which puts her into a deep sleep. When the Count had initially turned her over to her servants, there was no pregnant pause of the dash and she could not have been raped. Rhomer has the Count return later, when not only is the Marquise asleep, all are in a deep slumber--the servants and her children. He enters her chamber and shining his lamp upon her we see her slung over the side of the bed as the sleeper in Henry Fuseli's "The Nightmare". We don't see the creature sitting upon her chest or the "nightmare" in the background, but she is obviously discomfited, even though in the morning Rhomer's version has her being told that poppy seed tea prevents bad dreams. However, the pose of the dreamer in Fuseli's "The Nightmare" is much the same as Cupid's in Rubens' "Cupid and Psyche", or Isaac Beckett's rendition so that we have a double reading. The Count becomes as a wounded Cupid (he is mortally wounded) who must aid his Psyche in finding her way to him, yet is also a Psyche looking on his Cupid with his lamp, and must struggle through numerous travails, evan a trip to the underworld, to find his way back to her.
The Marquise of O has the purely social reading of women so deprived of personal agency that they can be forced into marrying a rapist, and that the Count may even be absolved of rape, as if it was only a momentary lapse in judgment, even though at the beginning of the story five men are executed for having attempted to rape the Marquise. At the opening of the story, at least, rape isn't treated as a trivial matter, not if five men are put to death for attempted rape. But even god rapes, as had in the case of the Blessed Virgin, and if a god that rapes can be praised and glorified for it, then why can't a Count be forgiven? And that's probably the sardonic, tragic-comic reading to be best applied.
Picnic at Hanging Rock has its own harsh critique of society. But if it did borrow from The Marquise of O it seems to have been in respect of complex story that is without a clear resolution but makes the metaphysical the viable end. One in which Michael is not a rapist (for certainly there are no assaults) but is instead as much a victim (and hero) as the Count would have been if the supernatural/subliminal angle had been more strongly pursued and the weight of evidence not placed on him being the Marquise's secret assailant. The psychic injuries of an encounter with the unknown, the inexplicable, are made a focal point, just as with the Marquise until she is provided an answer for her troubles in the form of the Count. Michael's swan, though nearly identical to the Count's, eludes him.
September 2016. Approx 34,300 words or 68 single-spaced pages. A 263 minute read at 130 wpm.