Acknowledgement of Country

The NFSA acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples as the Traditional Custodians of the lands and waterways across Australia. 

We pay respect to their Elders, past and present. 

What we see and what we seem are but a dream, a dream within a dream



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We hope you enjoy this exhibition! 


When asked to name five Australian films, many people list Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock. A huge success, it helped establish Australia’s place in world cinema.

At the heart of the film is Miranda, the schoolgirl who vanishes during the picnic on St Valentine's Day, 1900. As played by Anne Lambert, Miranda lingers in the viewer’s imagination long after she disappears from the film.

'A Botticelli angel'

Miranda is dressed in a delicate white muslin frock at the picnic, her appearance an allusion to Botticelli’s painting 'The Birth of Venus’ (c1485).
According to Lambert, who donated the dress to the NFSA: 'The daisy pattern in the lace trim of the dress was Miranda’s favourite flower. The butterfly-buckle was selected because like her, their lives are beautiful and brief.’

Anne Louise Lambert (Miranda)

'I've lived in a very friendly world'


Helen Morse played Mademoiselle Dianne de Poitiers, the French and Dancing mistress at Appleyard College. She is devastated by the students' disappearance.

Helen Morse was nominated for Best Actress at the 1976 Australian Film Institute Awards for Picnic and Caddie, and won for the latter role. 

French chic

Mlle Dianne de Poitiers (Helen Morse) wears a high-throated Edwardian gown of cream silk, with a modest train. The bodice is decorated with lace, and the dress is perfectly matched at the picnic with parasol, straw boater and shoes.

The Picnic costume designer was Judith Dorsman, working with Wendy Stiles and Mandy Smith.

Oral History with actress Helen Morse, 2015

'He wanted me to play Sara'

At the Rock

Filming began on 3 February 1975 at Hanging Rock, a rare volcanic formation over 6,000,000 years old which has a long association with Indigenous Australians.

The production moved to South Australia on 14 February, St Valentine’s Day. Martindale Hall (built 1877) in Mintaro became Appleyard College and Albyn Terrace in Strathalbyn became the main street of Woodend.

Interview with executive producer Patricia Lovell, 1993

'There was no other place to shoot it'

Oral History with scriptwriter Cliff Green, 2007

'I climbed the Rock on my own and I got lost'

Original ending

Peter Weir shot these unused scenes for the original ending of the film. Mrs Appleyard (Rachel Roberts) retraces the steps of the missing schoolgirls and sees a vision of orphan Sara Waybourne (Margaret Nelson, left).

These are excerpts from reels of 35mm silent colour outtakes acquired from Martin Sharp, who was credited as 'Artistic Advisor to the Director’. 

Scenes shot for original ending

More outtakes

These scenes cut from Picnic include Miranda collecting flowers; shots of schoolgirls inspired by photographer David Hamilton; a melancholy Rosamund (Ingrid Mason) playing the piano; and Sara in the college grounds.

Other scenes from the 1975 version of Picnic were later removed from Peter Weir's 1998 Director’s Cut (see photo gallery).

Making Picnic

Rachel Roberts (Mrs Appleyard) was a last-minute replacement for Vivien Merchant, who contracted pneumonia. Peter Weir briefly cast Ingrid Mason as Miranda, before returning to his initial choice of Lambert. 

The picnic scenes (left) took a week to shoot with filming only occurring at lunchtime. Cinematographer Russell Boyd placed dyed wedding veil across the lens to achieve the diffuse lighting effect.

Interview with cinematographer Russell Boyd, 1978

'We softened every shot'


While making Picnic, Pat Lovell found a monument marking the disappearance of three children near Hanging Rock in 1867.
Jane Vallis (Marion) and Jenny Lovell (Blanche) exchanged Valentine’s Day cards every year after making Picnic until Jane died in 1993.
Picnic was the third highest-grossing film of 1975 in Australia behind Jaws and The Towering Inferno.

Everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and place



With special thanks to Ingrid Weir and Peter Weir, without whom this exhibition would not have been possible. Thanks also to Helen Morse, John Jarratt, Cliff Green, Russell Boyd, Bruce Smeaton and Jenny Lovell for permission to reproduce interviews; and David Critchley, for his research into Picnic outtakes and photographs.

  • Exhibition producer: Stephen Groenewegen
  • Curatorial: Belinda Hunt, Jenny Gall, Jennifer Coombes
  • Document and artefact photography : Darren Weinert, Tony Rowley, Kerrie Ruth
  • Conservation: Shingo Ishikawa
  • Video: Patrick O’Connor, Craig Dingwall, Terry Stuetz
  • Audio: Karen Hewitt, Danny Roberts
  • Oral History: Bronwyn Murphy