There has always been a haunting mystery surrounding the outcome of the Peter Weir movie "Picnic At Hanging Rock". I have seen it countless times and watched waiting in awe for some magical solution to why the innocent white frocked girls go missing. The dreamy lens and lush scenery make it even more a super fairy tale. Supposedly there was a missing chapter that may have explained the truth?
The original novel “Picnic at Hanging Rock”, by Joan Lindsay, was first published in Australia by Cheshire Publishing Pty Ltd in 1967.
“Time Without Clocks” is the autobiography of Joan Lindsay first published in Australia by Cheshire Publishing Pty Ltd in 1962.
In what seems like an incredible coincidence Mr Hussey’s and Miss McCraw’s watches both stopped at twelve o’clock (midday) just before the girls go for their fateful walk. Why did the watches stop? An explanation may be found in Lindsay’s autobiography titled “Time Without Clocks” which was published five years before “Picnic at Hanging Rock”: the author was quoted as saying
"There were certain days when I sat at my typewriter in the empty green-aired room feeling like a deep-sea fish suspended in its natural element. Not only in my fish tank but outside in the sheltered valley all natural objects seemed in a state of suspension as they do immediately before an earthquake. It was a characteristic of the Marsh and perhaps had something to do with the old volcanoes seething and boiling so far below the earth’s crust that even the geologists hadn’t discovered them." p124 (Time Without Clocks)
SO WHAT HAPPENED to the girls and Miss Mcgraw?
"The Secret of Hanging Rock" was published in 1987. It contained a chapter that was supposedly the final chapter of "Picnic at Hanging Rock" that revealed the mystery of what happened to the missing people, but was removed before the novel was originally published. I've never actually located this out of print book to find the answers!
So I'm left to watch this film again and ponder Weir and his intoxicating characters full of longing and repression. With soft-focus Weir invents a world of golden hues and gentle whispers, & hazy
appearances, Weir loads the movie with clues that the disappearances should be viewed as metaphorical:
" For starters, the main events take place on Saint Valentine's Day—the most romantic day of the year. However, the teenage girls are trapped at a girls-only school named Appleyard College (an orchard for ripening fruit?). As a result, they pass Valentine's cards among themselves and breathlessly read love poems to each other. In a key scene, Weir shows as they help each other dress, and his camera focuses on a daisy-chain of girls tightening each other's corset. In this land of sexual repression and misplaced sexual yearnings, the girls venture to a towering 500-foot tall rock (with phallic implications?) and four girls in the party begin to climb higher and higher up the slopes. Not surprisingly one girl turns around and runs screaming down the rock. But the others take off their shoes (a sign that they are breaking from sexual repression?), and as the camera idealizes them in a golden haze, they begin their final slow-motion ascent."