It should come as no surprise that Joan Lindsay’s classic novel Picnic at Hanging Rock has been adapted for the screen before, in the seventies Peter Weir movie of the same name. The book, which centres around several privileged schoolgirls and their teacher who go missing during a picnic on Valentine’s Day, makes for heady and suspenseful reading – and all set against the backdrop of one of Australia’s most famous landmarks.
The 1967 novel is set in Australia in 1900, and sees the girls disappear almost without trace in a mystery that has huge repercussions for austere headmistress Mrs Appleyard, her pupils and the entire local community. What happened to the girls? Will they be found?
Natalie Dormer, of Game of Thrones and The Tudors fame, heads up the cast as Mrs Appleyard, the brusque and frightening headmistress of a school for young ladies. It’s also made apparent fairly quickly that she has a murky past, which she acknowledges herself: “Goodbye Hester, hello Widow Appleyard!”
Joining Mrs Appleyard are Miranda Reid (Lily Sullivan), the most rebellious of the schoolgirls, and who leads an expedition out to Hanging Rock, and rich, beautiful Irma (played by The Babysitter’s Samara Weaving).
What is Picnic at Hanging Rock about?
The drama sees three schoolgirls and their teacher go missing at Hanging Rock at the turn of the century, while out on an idyllic picnic with their classmates to celebrate St Valentine’s Day. The effects on the school, the local community, and the possible reasons behind their disappearance are all explored.
How similar is Picnic at Hanging Rock to the original novel?
So far, pretty similar. But some of the characters have been fleshed out and given more mysterious back stories compared to the novel.
For a start, Natalie Dormer is a bit younger and prettier than the Mrs Appleyard we meet in the book. There have also been hints that she may not be all she seems – especially in relation to late husband Arthur and her supposedly posh London roots.
Then there’s Mike Fitzhubert, the young Englishman who is staying with his Aunt and Uncle nearby, and who witnesses the girls heading towards Hanging Rock. In the original story he’s pretty straightforward, but in this telling there are hints that he has been sent to Australia in disgrace. Why?
Is there a trailer for Picnic at Hanging Rock?
Yes, you can watch it below.
Where is Picnic at Hanging Rock filmed?
Take a look at our location guide for details of the period properties and locations used in Picnic at Hanging Rock.