Picnic at Hanging Rock is an iconic Australian story, and loved by many, first as the book penned by Joan Lindsay in 1967, and then as the 1975 movie with the haunting pan pipe musical theme.
Fifty years after publication, it’s time for another look at the story of the refined schoolgirls who disappeared at Hanging Rock on Valentine’s Day in 1900.
Lovers of the 1975 movie with its shimmering light, beautiful music and gently bred schoolgirls may be in for a shock with the 2018 version.
The sense of wonder and mystery about what happened to the girls is replaced with a much darker sense of foreboding, and much more strident and outspoken characters.
Anne-Louise Lambert’s 1975 characterisation of Miranda as the Botticelli angel with long, flowing blonde hair is now a much more forward character, with Lily Sullivan giving us a brash and worldly Miranda.
The refined schoolgirl of the four who attempted to ascend Hanging Rock is the heiress Irma, an upper crust young lady played by Samara Weaving.
The academically gifted Marion Quade is played by Madeleine Madden, granddaughter of famous Indigenous activist Charles Perkins, giving the cast a pleasing diversity which is quite different from the original movie.
Lovers of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries will spot Phryne’s adopted daughter Jane, Ruby Rees, playing the unattractive character of Edith, who starts to follow the girls up the rock but comes screaming down in terror.
One of the surprise packets of the series is 14-year-old Inez Currõ, a charismatic actor who plays the spirited orphan Sarah, attracting the sinister attention of headmistress Mrs Appleyard, aka English actor Natalie Dormer, known to Game of Thrones fans as Margaery Tyrell.
Her cool elegance and breeding belies a darker truth which will emerge as the series progresses.
Among the staff is mathematics mistress Greta McCraw, played by Anna McGahan, well known for both her feminism and her strong Christian faith.
When Warcry spoke to Anna last year while she was filming Picnic at Hanging Rock, she was very clear about the role Christian values play in her life.
“I receive my identity and worth from Christ and, naturally, that changes everything,” she told Warcry.
“Holding onto that sort of truth when you enter into an industry that constantly calls your beauty, power and value into questions completely sets you free from the pressures and demands it can make,” Anna said.
Wise words from a young actor with her feet firmly on the ground.
So how does the miniseries compare with the movie?
This Picnic will be a fascinating but darker journey that will have us on the edge of our sofas until the very end of the final episode.