Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. Australia, 1975. Australian Film Commission, British Empire Films Australia, McElroy & McElroy, Picnic Productions Pty. Ltd.. Screenplay by Cliff Green, based on the novel by Joan Lindsay. Cinematography by Russell Boyd. Produced by Hal McElroy, Jim McElroy. Music by Bruce Smeaton, Bruce Smeaton. Production Design by David Copping. Costume Design by Judith Dorsman. Film Editing by Max Lemon. Podcast: My Criterions.
This fascinating Australian drama is based on a chilling true story: a class of private school girls take a picnic in the Australian bush, with four of the young women wandering off during an afternoon nap to look at the geological wonder of the title. Only one of them returns, insisting that she has no idea what has happened to her, while the other three vanish off the face of the earth without a single shred of evidence indicating what could have happened to them. In the wake of their absence, their once-peacefully run school becomes a madhouse of confusion and panic, with the headmistress (Rachel Roberts) suffering greatly both for the loss of the girls as well as the loss of students whose nervous parents are quickly de-enrolling them from their studies there. Director Peter Weir, already a master of his craft in the beginning of his career, creates a magnificent atmospheric mystery where young, budding sexuality hangs over every frame and the poetic attractions of youth are lethally seductive.