Marion (Jane Vallis) tries to make sense of her changed perspective, as she looks down on the sleeping picnickers. Miranda (Anne Lambert) leads the girls higher, to the foot of a series of strange monoliths, where all four girls lie down to sleep. Far below, Miss McCaw (Vivean Gray) senses that something is happening. When the girls awake, something has changed – the three friends walk through a crack in the rocks, as Edith (Christine Schuler) tries to stop them.
Summary by Paul Byrnes
After their picnic lunch, school friends Miranda (Anne Lambert), Marion (Jane Vallis) and Irma (Karen Robson) ask permission from their French mistress Mademoiselle de Portiers (Helen Morse) to go for a walk around the base of the rock. Overweight Edith (Chris Schuler) asks if she can come too. They pass sleeping picnickers, Colonel Fitzhubert (Peter Collingwood) and his wife (Olga Dickie), and the Colonel’s English nephew Michael (Dominic Guard), who’s drinking with Albert (John Jarratt), the manservant. Michael is mesmerised from afar by the beauty of Miranda.
On St Valentine’s Day 1900, three schoolgirls from an exclusive English-style boarding school go missing, along with a teacher, at Hanging Rock, in central Victoria. One of the girls is found alive a week later, but the others are never seen again. The tragedy is followed by chaos, grief, confusion and yet more tragedy. The police are baffled and suspicion falls on two young men – an excitable English aristocrat (Dominic Guard) and his working-class Australian manservant Albert (John Jarratt), who were exploring the rock together at the same time the girls disappeared.
As the school disintegrates around her, the owner and headmistress (Rachel Roberts) becomes more vindictive and incoherent. She turns on the weakest girl in the school, an orphan named Sara (Margaret Nelson), with disastrous consequences.
The film never answers the mystery; it suggests instead a set of possibilities, from banal and explicable (a crime of passion) to deeply mystical (a crime of nature).
Notes by Paul Brynes