Friday, July 28, 2006

EncyclopediaJane: What Really Happened At Hanging Rock?

Ah. Friday has arrived and yet another installment on EncyclopediaJane—researching useless shit because you just don’t have time to.

As I said last week, I’m open for blog reader suggestions. So if there’s something you’ve always wondered about but never had the time to check out for yourself, leave a comment and I’ll see what I can dig up. Maybe!

Today’s question comes from Red, who asks:

What really happened at Hanging Rock? (I admit to not having seen the film, so I only have a few sketchy details.)

At first I didn’t know what Red was talking about. But it turns out there was a movie released in 1975 called “Picnic At Hanging Rock” that explores the events surrounding the mysterious disappearance of a party of schoolgirls from Appleyard College on Saturday February 14, 1900. The girls were never found again. The film was known for its blend of supernatural thriller and sexual hysteria.

You can see the trailer here.

So the question becomes: was this a real event? Did they ever find out anything about the girls?

My internet ramblings reveal that, first off, there are two Hanging Rocks in the world. One is a state park located less than an hour from Greensboro and Winston-Salem, North Carolina here in the United States.

But the other, more famous Hanging Rock, where the film was shot, is Hanging Rock Reserve, a rare volcanic outcrop of solvsbergite ( a type of rock with a high soda content) in Victoria Australia, about an hour north of Melbourne. Hanging Rock is one of the world’s best examples of a rock formation called mamelon (nipple, French lit.).

The area became a national reserve in 1886 and has, ever since, been a popular picnic spot and site of sporting events such as the New Year’s day horse races.

This whole business about girls disappearing had its inception in Joan Lindsay story, “Picnic At Hanging Rock,” that was published in 1967. This was a novel, but Lindsay hinted that it may somehow be real. (No evidence has ever been turned up to support this, though).

In 1975 Director Peter Weir transformed Lindsay’s narrative into a film acclaimed for its well-adapted screenplay, unique score, iconic costumes, art direction, and editing. It became part of the renaissance in Australian film-making and the country’s first international hit.

The supernatural thriller left viewers hanging (pun intended but regretted) at the end: what really happened to these girls?

And so, in 1987 a book called “The Secret of Hanging Rock” was published. This book included a chapter entitled “Chapter Eighteen” that is supposedly the original last chapter of Lindsay’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock”. (The assumption is that it was edited out of the 1967 version.)

But honestly, the chapter doesn’t really clear anything up. They still just disappear. (You can read more about the spoiler here.)

And if you’re really into this, check out the 2004 documentary: A Dream Within a Dream: The making of 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'. Included are interviews with Peter Weir, among others.

If you're going to make a trek out to see the site, you might as well visit the Hanging Rock Winery while you’re at it.


Blogger Red said...

Yay, thanks for this! Sorry you had to research it, though... I hope it didn't take up too much of your time.

I had no idea it was based on a work of fiction. Indeed, the little I knew revolved around the fact that this mysterious disappearance might have happened for real. Thanks for clearing that up! I guess I should watch the film now, shouldn't I?

2:12 AM  
Blogger Red said...

Or better still, read the book!

2:13 AM  

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