Picnic at Hanging Rock is an Australian period film directed by Peter Weir, adapted from the novel of the same name, by author Joan Lindsay.. It relates the story of the disappearance of several schoolgirls and their teacher during a picnic to Hanging Rock on St. Valentine's Day in 1900, and the subsequent effect on the local community. 
The film, supported by beautiful soundtreck and photography, is a fascinating story that captured me since first time I saw it, back in the years of its release.
Critic Roger Ebert called it a film of haunting mystery and buried sexual hysteria, adding it employs two of the hallmarks of modern Australian films: beautiful cinematography and stories about the chasm between settlers from Europe and the mysteries of their ancient new home. 

It all starts on St. Valentine's Day 1900.  Young schoolgirls in the sophisticated costumes of the period prepare for this special occasion, reading poems, combing their long hair, writing notes and looking in the mirror.

They are all students of the exclusive Appleyard College and are about to travel by horse-drawn trap to picnic at the geological local formation known as Hanging Rock.  The mathematic mistress Miss McCraw(Vivian Grey) is in charge, assisted by the beautiful french teacher Mademoiselle de Poitier (Helen MOrse).

Once arrived on destination, they leasurly sit on the grass, in the wonderful sun light of a pretty warm day, reading poetry, relaxing, laughing softly, enjoying themselves. 

After a meal, Mr Hussey -the driver- notes his watch has stopped at the stroke of twelve, as has the watch of Miss McGraw. 

Later in the afternoon, with permission from Mademoiselle de Poitiers, few students  decide to explore Hanging Rock, Miranda(Anne Lambert), Marion and Irma with Edith allowed to follow. The group is observed several minutes later by a young englishman.


At the top of Hanging Rock, the group lies on the ground, apparently dazed by the sun. At the same moment Miss McCraw, still at the base of the Rock, stares up. 
Then Miranda, Marion, and Irma awake and move, as if in a dream, into a recess in the rock face. Edith screams and flees down the Rock to reach the rest of the group at the picnic area. The class wait for the rest of the girls, but none of them will return to the picnic area and even MIss McCraw that also had decided to climb the rocks will be left behind when it gets late and they are all forced to return to the college.

The rest of the film charts the effect this disappearance had on the school, its staff and its pupils.  A search party of the local police is organised but finds nothing. Edith reveals that she witnessed the math teacher Miss McGraw climbing the Rock without her skirt. 

The young English man, Michael, is questioned by police and reveals he watched the schoolgirls walking but can provide no clues as to their whereabouts. He becomes obsessed about finding Miranda, he had observed fascinated when she was walking with the other girls under the trees.

He returns to Hanging Rock and discovers instead Irma, alone, unconscious but alive. She is treated for dehydration and exposure, but she tells the police and Mlle. de Poitiers she has no memory of what happened. A servant notes that Irma's corset is missing. 

Even later after recovering completely, Irma will never remember what had happened. During a flashback to the picnic scene, a voice over states that the body of Mrs Appleyard  -the harsh school head mistress - was found at the base of Hanging Rock and that the search for the missing school girls and their mistress continued sporadically for several years without success.

It is a haunting and exquisitely beautiful film, noted for its costume design, the exceptional photography by Russell Boyd and its tantalised audiences who saw it over and over again as they tried to pick up the scattered clues that might, or might not, explain the fate of the girls. In the same way I was watching the film in trepidation, hoping to find out what actually happened and that was never revealed.

+ It was a stroke of genius to marry the beautiful visuals with the haunting pan-pipe music of Gheorghe Zanfir.

{  photos source : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12  }




  1. I watched it, again!, ages ago and could remember very little but that exact pining for some explanation. It just remained a strange, mysterious film in my head. I think I'll look for the music, sounds worth it and I can't remember a single note:/

    1. Hi Marta, yes look for the music, I think was really so beautiful in combination of the whole atmosphere of the movie, but also good in itself. Don't know why these old movies keep coming back to me. Next time I will take of a new one I think :-)

  2. I started watching this movie about two years ago and just could NOT get into it :(
    I did watch it all, but sadly was bored by it (though I ADORE the outfits). Wonderful review of it though!!!

    1. Hi Victoria, I can understand why though: it is a like-it or not-like it kind of movie I guess :-) thanks for your comment and welcome!


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