Note: I ran across the this material while searching the web. Unfortuantely, there was no identification of author. It seems it is probably some kind of curriculum outline for a film/literature course, but I'm not sure. Material that is mine has been added in [].


It is Saint Valentine's Day, February 14, 1900 at Appleyard College, an all-girl's school in Australia. The girls are going on a picnic at Hanging Rock, a natural monument formed of ancient lava rock. Before leaving, Miranda, one of the school girls, tells her orphan friend, Sarah that she will not be at the school much longer. While having their picnic, four of the girls, Miranda, Marion, Irma and Edith decide to explore the rocks. Edith, fatigued and cranky, does not want to continue on as the other three do. She becomes frightened of something as they are leaving her and she runs screaming back to the picnic. Miranda, Marion, and Irma, in addition to their school teacher, Ms. Me Craw do not return. Two boys who saw the four girls while they were exploring went looking for Miranda and her schoolmates. While looking, one boy, Michael becomes delirious and injures himself on the rocks. He had found Irma though, and the other boy, Albert (who works for the colonel, is also an orphan, and is Sarah's lost brother) goes back up the rocks to find her. She is still alive but she can't remember anything that happened to her. Ms. Apple yard, the principal of the school who also has a drinking problem, decides that Sarah will not attend the college anymore because she is not receiving any money from her guardian. Later the same evening that she tells Sarah of her fate to go back to the orphanage, she pushes Sarah off the roof of the building in a drunken stupor. Ms. Apple yard died on the 27th of February trying to climb the rocks. The remaining missing girls and Ms. Me Craw are never found. The film is based on a true story.

1. THEME: Everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and place (fatalistic).

2. MOTIF: Time

A. There is a clock always heard ticking in Ms. Apple yard's office.

B. There is a clock at the top and to the side of the staircase.

C. At the picnic, everyone is talking about time.

D. Their watches stop at noon at the picnic. [This is a classic example of what happens during a UFO abduction event, the stopping of time, or the "missing time" concept; for example, the watch of the abductee will be behind the regular time, and they will not be able to account for the "missing time" shown by the watch.]

E. Miranda says "everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and place" and is also quoted by Irma for having said so.

F. Miranda does not wear her little diamond watch anymore.


A. How is the motif, time, mentioned and stressed in the film?

1. As they are leaving for the picnic, Irma says (in regards to hanging rock) "millions of years, just for us."

2. When Michael and Albert are talking, Michael says that midday is a bit early for lunch.

3. Albert says "I always allow an hour longer than it takes to get here...."

4. The carriage driver's watch along with Ms. Me Craw's stopped at 12:00.

5. Miranda says she doesn't wear her little diamond watch anymore.

B. Now is Miranda's expectation of leaving followed by her disappearance related to the theme? It was almost as if Miranda knew what was going to happen. If she did indeed die, it seemed that she excepts it as the "right time." What ever happened to her, she professed a belief in and a premonition of her fate. Miranda no longer wears her watch. What does this suggest about the theme? She does not mean "everything happens at exactly the right time" literally, but rather figuratively. Not at precisely 4:00, but in a more general sense, as she believes in fate. She does not need to wear a watch because she knows that the precise time is not important. She has an inner sense of when it is due time for something to happen.


A. In the beginning of the film, Miranda is shown brushing her hair at a mirror. What do the different images of Miranda symbolize. Since the viewer sees two confusingly oriented reflections of Miranda's face, it suggests as if there is more than one Miranda, or at least another side to her known personality. The mirror image therefore, symbolizes the complexity of her character.

B. In Michael's garden, there are some small rocks with faces carved in them. What is this a symbol of? First of all, the rocks refer to hanging rock. Often, in the shots of the huge rocks it appears that there are faces in the rocks. The faces are malicious looking and symbolize evil.

C. How is the girls' clothing a symbol? The girls wear white and wear stockings, gloves and boots. It is a symbol of their purity and properness. Also, when Irma is leaving, she is wearing a stark, red cloak. She causes quite a stir during the ballet lessons when the girls become angry with her and question her about what happened at Hanging Rock. Red is often associated with danger, anger, and even evil or death. Here, Irma is a bold symbol of such.

D. What do the three girls traveling hand in hand with Edith trailing behind and taking off their stockings and boots except for Edith let the viewer know? It shows how separated Edith is from the other three. After all, it is only Edith who does not go on and returns.


A. Explain the metaphor used during the picnic while Ms. Mc Craw is reading. In the first shot, there is a triangle illustration in physics book she is looking at. The next shot is of the three ominous rocks and the last that of the three girls lying in a triangle, The idea formed is that the girl's disappearance possibly has a logical, scientific explanation.

B. Explain the metaphor used with the swan. The first shot is of Miranda, the second of a swan. Miranda is being compared to the grace and elegance of a swan.


A. How does the film, Picnic at Hanging Rock allude to the ballet, swan Lake?

1. In the very beginning of Swan Lake, the audience is warned by an overture (the music). The viewer of the film is also warned by Miranda's statement, "all we see or seem is but a dream. A dream within a dream*." (*a quote from Poe's "A Dream Within a Dream"

2. In Swan Lake there is an air of anticipation and there is the celebration of Prince Siegfried's birthday. In the film, there is also the anticipation of the girls for the celebration of Saint Valentine's Day.

3. The swan queen, Odette whom the prince falls in love with is similar to Miranda with whom Michael is fascinated (or perhaps falls in love).

4. Both leading women in the film and the ballet represent elegance, grace and beauty.

5. In Swan Lake, the prince becomes immediately enchanted with the swans as they fly up from the water. In the movie, Michael is also quickly enchanted when he sees the girls cross the stream.

6. In both the ballet and the movie, aspects of three are often used: in the ballet, the swans dance a "pas de trots" (step of three) and there are three missing girls.

7. At one point the dancing swans form a triangle which is similar to the triangular formation of the three sleeping girls and the illustration in Ms. Me Craw's book.

8. Siegfried and Benno, (the lover and his friend), are drinking wine. Michael and Albert, (again the "lover" and his friend), are also drinking wine and beer.

9. There is a similarity between Odile, the evil Von Rotbart's daughter and Irma, the only girl to be found. Odile is dressed in black and is evil. Irma, dressed in red when she is leaving, also appears somewhat evil.

10. Odette (obviously) turns into a swan during the day. It seems that Miranda turns into a swan at one point when Michael imagines he sees her in his garden. She walks into the bushes and instead of a human figure, out comes a swan.


A. What is the foreshadow used when the girls first arrive- at Hanging Rock? The birds fly up as Miranda opens the gate and the horses are spooked. It warns the viewer that something terrible is soon to happen.

B. How is foreshadow used during the Valentine celebrations Miranda stabs the heart-shaped cake with a knife and proceeds to cut it down the middle. This foreshadows the broken heart of Sarah (and the others) at Miranda's disappearance.

C. How does Miranda foreshadow her own disappearance? In the morning before the picnic, she tells Sarah she will have to find a new friend because she will not be at the school much longer. Also, when she leaves the picnic to explore the rocks, she gives a wave to the mademoiselle that seems very serious, as if final.

D. What foreshadows Sarah's death? Irma says that Sarah reminds her of a deer her papa once brought home. Her mother said it was doomed, which suggests poor Sarah is also doomed.

E. How is the direction Or travel of the girls an example Or foreshadow? When travel is from the left side of the screen to the right side of the screen, all is usually well. However, when travel is from right to left, as in the Picnic at Hanging Rock when the four girls are exploring the rocks, it signals the impending doom.

F. What does the horse-drawn carriage in which the girls are driven to the picnic foreshadow? The carriage looks much like that which would carry coffins in its day. It looks like a hearse. It foreshadows the deaths/disappearance of the girls.


A. What is an example of dramatic irony in this film? The audience knows that Sara and Albert are sister and brother.


A. Give three examples of homage from the film.

l. The mademoiselle compares Miranda to a "Botticelli Angel." Sandra Botticelli is famous for his paintings of angels and the Virgin Mary and child.

2. One of the girls is reciting one of Shakespear's sonnets: "Let me compare thee to a summer's day..."

3. Miranda recites a line from Edgar Allan Poe's "A Dream Within a Dream.


A. Compare Picnic at Hanging Rock with swan Lake.

B. In an essay, give a possible explanation for the girls' disappearance, providing examples of proof for your Explanation from the film.

C. What is meant by Marion's statement about it being surprising that all human beings are without purpose, except maybe one that they're not aware of? How does it relate to the film.


A. Discuss Marion's statement about purpose. What are your own views of your "purpose?"

B. Do you agree with Miranda when she says, "everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and placer" Do you believe in fate, like Miranda, or its opposite, free will. Why?


A. A scientific explanation: the venomous snakes and poisonous ants. Perhaps the girls were killed by them, and Irma escaped near death. It would explain her memory loss. Maybe it was a snake that Edith saw and she was screaming at it. It is suggested also by the metaphor that compares a physics book with the girls and the rocks. [Although this explanation could account for perhaps one death, it does not explain all the disappearances; further, even if one or somehow all of them had been killed by snakes or ants there still would have been bodies which, according to the story, were never found.] B. The red cloud that Edith saw, (and as was suspected when it happened in 1900), suggests possible UFO or supernatural interference.

C. Perhaps the girls were molested. Irma's hands were bruised and she was missing her petticoat. Since she was "intact," she could have escaped her assaulter. At the time the tragic event happened, the Colonel was actually suspected of molesting them and killing them, or perhaps helping them escape. It is thought that he was involved. In the film, he was always seen in the background when the police were questioning Michael. He also scrutinizes over Miranda's picture in the paper.[Again, this might account for one girl, but not all of them and the teacher combined.]

D. Perhaps Miranda escaped with a lover. In the beginning of the film, she was reading a valentine she'd received that said, "meet me love when day is ending...." (But what of Marion and Irma?) If the Colonel was involved, he may have helped them to escape. It is somewhat suggested in the film that there was lesbianism in the college, (i.e. the girls slept in the same beds, Miranda told Sarah she would have to find someone new to "love"), and perhaps Miranda was trying to escape that along with the sternest of the college.[Where would the girls escape to? This was 1900 or so, and there were no real options to young, single girls who ran away from home or whatever. And again you have to explain all the disappearances, not just one.]

[Of interest is the fact that in the A&E showing of Picnic at Hanging Rock, during the introduction (before the film is shown) the narrator stated that the film was based on fact. Of all the mysteries of the film this is the biggest; is it based on fact or not? In searching the web I found papers supporting both positions; papers stating that people had searched the available records and found nothing; and papers stating that people had searched the records and found information supporting the story. There is also the point that an additional chapter apparently brought into play the idea of some kind of dimensional event; perhaps the girls and teacher wandered into another dimension.]

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