Picnic at Hanging Rock (movie)

Picnic at Hanging Rock is a 1975 Australian mystery drama film which was produced by Hal and Jim McElroy , directed by Peter Weir , and starred Vivean Gray , Dominic Guard ,Anne-Louise Lambert , Helen Morse , and Rachel Roberts . It was adapted by Cliff Green from the 1967 novel of the same name by Joan Lindsay , who was deliberately ambiguous about whether the events really took place, the story is in fact entirely fictitious.

The plot involves the disappearance of several schoolgirls and their teacher during a picnic at Hanging Rock , Victoria on Valentine’s Day in 1900, and the subsequent effect on the local community. Picnic at Rock Hanging was a commercial and critical success. On 6 September 2016 it was announced that Fremantle Media and pay-TV broadcaster Foxtel would be producing a six-part miniseries based on the film, to be broadcast in 2017. [2]


At Appleyard College, a girls’ private school, near the town of Woodend, Victoria , Australia , the students are dressing on the morning of Valentine’s Day, 1900. Miranda ( Anne-Louise Lambert ), Irma ( Karen Robson ), Marion (Jane Vallis), Rosamund (Ingrid Mason), waifish Sara (Margaret Nelson), and outsider Edith (Christine Schuler) read poetry and Valentine’s Day cards.

The group prepares for a picnic to a local geological formation known as Hanging Rock , accompanied by the mathematics Miss Greta McCraw ( Vivean Gray ) and the young and beautiful Miss. Of Poitiers ( Helen Morse ). On the authority of the stern headmistress Appleyard ( Rachel Roberts ), jittery teacher Miss Lumley ( Kirsty Child ) advises Sara that she is not allowed to wait.

Driven by buggy operator Ben Hussey ( Martin Vaughan ), the party goes through and arrives at the Rock by mid-afternoon. After a meal, Mr. Hussey notes his watch has stopped at the stroke of twelve, and has the watch of Miss McCraw. With permission from Miss. Of Poitiers, Miranda, Marion and Irma, to explore Hanging Rock and take measurements, with Edith allowed to follow. The group is observed several minutes later by a young Englishman, Michael Fitzhubert ( Dominic Guard ), who is lunching at the Rock with his uncle Col. Fitzhubert ( Peter Collingwood ), aunt Mrs. Fitzhubert ( Olga Dickie ), and valet Albert ( John Jarratt). At the top of Hanging Rock, the group lies on the ground, apparently dazed by the sun. Miss McCraw, still at the base of the Rock, stares up. Miranda, Marion, and Irma awake and move, as if in a trance, into a recess in the rock face. Edith screams and waves down the Rock.

The distraught and hysterical party eventually returns to the College, where Miss de Poitiers explains to Mrs. Appleyard Miss McCraw has been left behind. Sara notes the absence of Miranda; and Mr. Hussey explains to Mrs. Appleyard that Miranda, Irma, Marion, and Miss McCraw went missing. A search party, led by Sgt. Bumpher (Wyn Roberts) and Constable Jones ( Garry McDonald ) of the local police, finds nothing, but Edith reveals that she is witnessing Miss McCraw climbing the Rock without her skirt. Michael Fitzhubert is questioned and reveals his schoolgirls but can not provide as much as his whereabouts.

Michael becomes obsessed with finding Miranda; and, with Albert, he conducts another search of Hanging Rock. Despite Albert’s protests, Michael decides to stay overnight and starts climbing again, leaving a trail of paper. When Albert follows the markers, he finds a nearly delirious Michael. Just before leaving on a buggy with a local doctor, Michael passes to Albert a fragment of a lace from a dress. Albert returns to Hanging Rock and Irma discovers, unconscious but alive. The residents of Woodend become restless as news of the discovery spreads. At the Fitzhubert home, Irma is treated for dehydration and exposure, and tells the police and Miss. Of Poitiers she has no memory of what happened. Servant notes that Irma’s corset is missing but is advised by Mrs. Fitzhubert that it is not important.

Michael befriends the recovered Irma but alienates her when he asks to know what happened on the Rock. Mrs. Appleyard advises Miss Lumley that several parents have withdrawn their children from the school. Before leaving for Europe, Irma visits her classmates at the end time; but they become hysterical and demand to know what happened to their missing friends. Miss de Poitiers intervenes; and, as Irma flees, she also notices that she has been strapped to a wall by Miss Lumley to correct her posture. That night, Miss Lumley gives notice to a drunken Mrs. Appleyard that she is resigning.

Mrs. Appleyard tells Sara that she has not paid her tuition, Sara must return to the orphanage. Afterwards, Mrs. Appleyard lies to Miss. Of Poitiers and claims that Sara ‘s Guardian Collected her early morning. The next morning, Sara’s body is found in the greenhouse by Mr. Whitehead, the school gardener. Believing Sara committed suicide by leaping from her bedroom window, Whitehead confronts Mrs. Appleyard, who is calm in full dress with her possessions packed. Michael tells Albert he has been revealed to him by Sara revealing him.

During a flashback to the picnic stage, Sgt. Bumpher states in a voice over that the body of Mrs. Appleyard was found at the base of Hanging Rock from an apparent suicide. Miss McCraw continued sporadically for several years without success. Their disappearance is left as a mystery.


  • Anne-Louise Lambert as Miranda St. Clair
  • Rachel Roberts as Mrs. Appleyard
  • Dominic Guard as Michael Fitzhubert
  • Helen Morse as Miss of Poitiers
  • Margaret Nelson as Sara Waybourne
  • John Jarratt as Albert Crundall
  • Wyn Roberts as Sgt. Bumpher
  • Karen Robson as Irma Leopold
  • Christine Schuler as Edith Horton
  • Jane Vallis as Marion Quade
  • Vivean Gray as Miss McCraw
  • Martin Vaughan as Ben Hussey
  • Kirsty Child as Miss Lumley
  • Jacki Weaver as Minnie
  • Frank Gunnell as Mr. Whitehead
  • Tony Llewellyn-Jones as Tom
  • John Fegan as Doc. McKenzie
  • Kay Taylor as Mrs. Bumpher
  • Peter Collingwood as Col. Fitzhubert
  • Garry McDonald as Const. Jones
  • Olga Dickie as Mrs. Fitzhubert
  • Jenny Lovell as Blanche


The novel was published in 1967. Lovell thought it would make a great movie. She did not originally think that Phillip Adams suggested she try it; she opted for the film rights in 1973, paying $ 100 for three months. [4] She hired Peter Weir to live on the basis of Homesdale and Weir brought in Hal and Jim McElroy to help produce. [1]

Screenwriter David Williamson was originally chosen to adapt the film, but was unavailable and noted TV writer Cliff Green . [5] Joan Lovell said that Lovell says “excellent”. [4]

The finalised budget was A $ 440,000, coming from the Australian Film Development Corporation , British Empire Films and the South Australian Film Corporation . $ 3,000 came from private investors. [4]

Filming began in February 1975 with main photography taking six weeks. [6] Rentals included Hanging Rock in Victoria , Martindale Hall near Mintaro in rural South Australia, and at the South Australian Film Corporation in Adelaide .

Director of photography Russell Boyd stated in an interview that he created the ethereal look of the picnic by placing a simple bridal veil over the camera lens. [5] The film was edited by Max Lemon.

Weir originally cast Ingrid Mason as Miranda, but it was not working and cast Anne-Louise Lambert. Mason was persuaded to remain in the role of a minor character by Patricia Lovell. [5] The role of Mrs Appleyard was originally taken by Vivien Merchant ; Merchant fell ill and Rachel Roberts was cast on short notice. [1] Several of the school girls’ voices were dubbed in secrecy by professional voice actors. The voice actors were not credited, but Barbara Llewellyn’s voice was revealed to the role of Edith (Christine Schuler). [7]


The hand title was derived from two traditional Romanian panpipe pieces: ” Doina : Sus Pe Culmea Dealului” and “Doina Lui Petru Unc” with Romanian Gheorghe Zamfir playing the panpipe (gold panflute) and Swiss born Marcel Cellier the organ. Australian composer Bruce Smeaton also provided several original compositions (The Ascent and the Rock) written for the film. [5]

Other classical additions included Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C from The Well-Tempered Clavier performed by Jenő Jandó; the Romance movement from Mozart ‘s Eine kleine Nachtmusik ; the Andante Cantabile movement from Tchaikovsky ‘s String Quartet No. 1, Op. 11 , and the Adagio un poco mosso from Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor” Performed by István Antal with the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra. Traditional British songs God Save the Queen and Men of Harlech also appear.

There is currently no official soundtrack commercially available. In 1976, CBS released a vinyl LP titled “A Theme from Picnic at Hanging Rock”, a track of the same name and “Miranda’s Theme”. A 7 “single was released in 1976 from the Picnic at Hanging Rock theme by the Nolan-Buddle Quartet.


Horror need not be a long-fanged gentleman in evening clothes or a dismembered corpse or a doctor who keeps a brain in his gold fish bowl. It can be a warm sunny day, the innocence of girlhood and hints of unexplored sexuality that combines to produce a euphoria so intense it becomes transporting, a state beyond life or death. Such horror is unspeakable because it is possible because it is outside the realm of things that can be easily defined.

Vincent Canby , writing about the film for The New York Times [8]

Weir recalled that when the film was first screened in the United States, American audiences were disturbed by the fact that the mystery remained unsolved. According to Weir, “One distributor threw his coffee cup on the screen at the end of it, because he had wasted two hours of his life-a mystery without a goddamn solution!” [5] Critic Vincent Canby notes this reaction among audiences in a 1979 review of the film, in which he discussed the film’s elements of artistic “Australian horror romance”, which is one of the cliches of a conventional horror film. [8]

Despite this, the film was a critical success, with American film criticism Roger Ebert calling it “a film of haunting mystery and buried sexual hysteria” and remarked that 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. ” [9]

Cliff Green stated in interview that “Writing the film and later through its production, did I-or anyone else-predict that it would become Australia’s most loved movie? We always knew it was going to be good-but that good? ? ” [6]

Picnic at Hanging Rock has an approval rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes as of 13 May 2016. [10]

Box office

Picnic at Hanging Rock grossed $ 5,120,000 in box office sales in Australia. [11] This is equivalent to approximately $ 23,269,160 in 2016 Australian dollars. [12]


Award Category Subject result
AACTA Award Best Movie Hal and Jim McElroy Nominated
Best Direction Peter Weir Nominated
Best Actress Helen Morse Nominated
British Society of Cinematographer Award Best Cinematography Russell Boyd Nominated
BAFTA Award Best Cinematography Won
Best Costume Design Judith Dorsman Nominated
Best Soundtrack Nominated
Saturn Award Best Writing Cliff Green Nominated


Picnic at Hanging Rock was first released on DVD in the Criterion Collection on 3 November 1998. This release featured a director’s cut of the film with an entirely new transfer, a theatrical trailer and liner notes about the film. The same year, the film was also re-released theatrically, with Weir removing seven minutes from the film that apparently detracted from the narrative. [5] The Criterion Collection re-released the director’s cut-out on Blu-Ray on June 17, 2014. It includes a paperback copy of the novel and many supplemental features, most of which are not available on international releases.

The film was later released in a special 3-disc set on 30 June 2008 in the United Kingdom . This set includes the director’s cut and a longer version, interviews with filmmakers and book author Joan Lindsay , poster and still galleries, a 120-minute documentary and deleted scenes. UK distributor Second Sights Films also released on Blu-ray on July 26, 2010. [13] [14]

In Australia it was released on DVD by Umbrella Entertainment in August 2007, and re-released in a 2-disc Collector’s Edition in May 2011. This edition includes special features such as the various theatrical trailers, poster and still galleries, documentaries and interviews with cast, crew and Joan Lindsay. [15] It was released on Blu-ray by Umbrella Entertainment with a newly restored print, the feature-length documentary A Dream Within A Dream , a 25-minute on-set documentary, A Recollection: Hanging Rock in 1900 and the theatrical trailer is May 12, 2010. [16]

Legacy and influence

Director Sofia Coppola has borrowed heavily from Picnic at Hanging Rock for her productions of The Virgin Suicides as well as Marie Antoinette . [17] Both films, like Picnic at Hanging Rock , deal extensively with themes of death and femininity as well as adolescent perceptions of love and sexuality. [18] [19]The film has gone on to inspire other recent artists, who have come to see the film for its themes and its unique visuals.

Excerpts of the film can be heard in the cello rock group Rasputina’s song “Girls’ School” which is featured on their album Frustration Plantation . [20] [21] Rasputina’s personal aesthetic has also been relied on by Picnic at Hanging Rock by critics. [22]

American actress Chloë Sevigny has cited the film as an influence on her personal style. [23]

American television writer Damon Lindelof stated that the film was an influence on the second season of television The Leftovers . [24]

See also

  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (TV series)


  1. ^ Jump up to:c David Stratton, The Last New Wave: The Australian Film Revival , Angus & Robertson, 1980 p68-69
  2. Jump up^ Patrick Frater. “Australian Classic” Picnic at Rock Hanging to Be Remade as TV Series ” . Variety . Retrieved 7 September 2016 .
  3. Jump up^ Rayner, Jonathan. The Films of Peter Weir. London:Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003.ISBN 0826419089, pp. 70-71
  4. ^ Jump up to:c Scotty Murray & Antony I Ginanne, Producing Picnic: Pat Lovell, Cinema Papers , March-April 1976 p298-301
  5. ^ Jump up to:f “A Dream Within a Dream” : Documentary (120 min Umbrella Entertainment, 2004)
  6. ^ Jump up to:b “The Vault” Storyline , Australian Writers’ Guild, 2011, p. 68
  7. Jump up^ Bright Lights Cafe “Picnic at Rock Hanging – The Unseen Voices”
  8. ^ Jump up to:b “Picnic at Hanging Rock by Vincent Canby” . The Criterion Collection . 1979 . Retrieved 31 December 2016 .
  9. Jump up^ Ebert, Roger (August 2, 1998). “Picnic at Hanging Rock” . Chicago Sun-Times . Retrieved 19 May 2010 .
  10. Jump up^ “Picnic at Hanging Rock” . Rotten Tomatoes .
  11. Jump up^ “Australian Movies at the Australian Box Office” (PDF) . Victoria movie. p. 2 . Retrieved 22 July 2012 .
  12. Jump up^ “Inflation Calculator” . Reserve Bank of Australia . Retrieved 31 December 2016 .
  13. Jump up^ “Picnic At Rock Hanging – The Director’s Cut [Blu-ray] [1975]” . Amazon.co.uk . Retrieved 14 August 2010 .
  14. Jump up^ Atanasov, Svet (14 August 2010). “Picnic at Hanging Rock Blu-ray” . Blu-ray.com .
  15. Jump up^ “Umbrella Entertainment – Collector’s Edition” . Retrieved 29 May2013 .
  16. Jump up^ “Picnic At Hanging Rock Blu-Ray” . Umbrella Entertainment Website. Umbrella Entertainment . Retrieved 7 June 2012 .
  17. Jump up^ Weird, Jake. “The Virgin Suicides and Picnic at Hanging Rock” . Weirdland . BlogSpot . Retrieved 11 September 2014 .
  18. Jump up^ Monden, Masafumi (2013). “Contemplating in a dream-like room and the aesthetic imagination of girlhood” . Movie, Fashion and Consumpton . 2(2) . Retrieved 11 September 2014 .
  19. Jump up^ Rodenstein, Roy. “The Virgin Suicides” . The Tech Online . Retrieved 11 September 2014 .
  20. Jump up^ Creager, Melora (2004). Plantation Frustration . New York City: Instinct Records.
  21. Jump up^ Creager, Melora. “Were the background voices in” Girls’ School “..”FanBridge . Retrieved 11 September 2014 .
  22. Jump up^ Thill, Scott. “Rasputina’s Cabin Fever” . Morphizm . Retrieved 11 September 2014 .
  23. Jump up^ Muhlke, Christine. “Profile In Style: Chloë Sevigny” . New York Times . Retrieved March 31, 2010 .
  24. Jump up^ Ryan, Maureen. ” ‘ The Leftovers’ Damon Boss Lindelof Explains That Shocking Twist” . Variety . Retrieved December 2, 2015 .

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