In a room in a music school, five young girls wearing different colored T-shirts hang around motionlessly in various positions, staring into space. A woman’s voice off-screen orders them to learn a poem by heart. Footsteps on the floor, a door closing. The girls begin to talk. Over the course of the video, the girls are arranged, as if they were artificial figures, into tableaux vivants across the split screen. Sitting at a drum, lying on a bench, or standing, they recite in a melancholy yet simultaneously bored way excerpts from Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Thin Red Line. The dialogue from the novel – written around 1900, and also spoken by young girls – is about death and the meaning of life.
Von Rudy overlaps fictitious and real levels through the soundtrack, much of which is composed of voice-overs from the original films accompanied by background noise, such as the sound of insects humming, the ticking of a clock, and wind. A combination of theater and film, Picnic leaves one feeling uneasy, owing to the contrast between the protagonists’ lack of emotion and the timeless content of the quotations. Simultaneously, the close-ups of the girls, as they stare penetratingly into the camera, express their vulnerability. (Lily McLeish)