Picnic at Hanging Rock is an exquisite nightmare of a story, a horrifying mystery without explanation, and the focal point for ceaseless obsession. It has been this terrifying thing for many decades now, and the new Amazon miniseries (Foxtel in Australia) is only the latest incarnation. This is no mere period piece. This is gothic despair.
The story began, allegedly, as a series of dreams which befell Australian author Joan Lindsay, about a group of young girls on a field trip to Hanging Rock, an ancient volcanic mountain, where they mysteriously vanished. The story continues to tell the story of the people investigating her disappearance, the passionate despair and madness that befalls those who become obsessed with the incident, and the tragedy that befalls the school afterwards. Joan Lindsay made her disturbing story all the more fascinating by suggesting that her novel was based on a true story, an approach that made her writing – and the subsequent film – all the more unsettling.