Australian classic 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' series premieres in Berlin

The cast of "Picnic at Hanging Rock" was out in force at the Berlin film festival

The popular myth that Australia's iconic mystery tale "Picnic at Hanging Rock" is based on true events should help bring it to a global audience, one of its stars said at the Berlin film festival Monday.

The story of the strange disappearances of three schoolgirls and their governess at a picnic in the remote Australian bush on Valentine's Day 1900 has been reimagined in a six-part TV drama series.

Its makers promise a fresh take on the unsettling mystery that adds up to a "terrifyingly eerie" supernatural crime drama, with new twists and characters.

"What I love about 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' is everyone thinks the original novel was based on a true story," said Natalie Dormer, of "Game of Thrones" fame, who plays the enigmatic and stern English headmistress Mrs Appleyard.

"It's excellent marketing," Dormer told AFP at the Berlin red carpet premiere.

"They did a fantastic job in the 60s and in the 70s", she said on the 1967 novel by Joan Lindsay, who was deliberately ambiguous about the story's origin, and director Peter Weir's 1975 classic film.

"It's incredibly spooky, whether it's a true story or not."

Dormer said that the mystery is both "a national treasure for Australia" and "a universal, international story".

"All the themes of liberation and rebellion, of identity, of an inner struggle with yourself -- it's full of universal, timeless themes that are not specific just to Australia," she said.

Another cast member, Ruby Rees, said much of the appeal came from the many complex female characters.

"At its centre, it's a story about women and girls," she said.

"We hear from them in a way that we haven't before, in the book or the film, and so it's exciting, especially now in 2018, that it is such a female-focused production.

"So I think that's the core appeal, the women."

Director Larysa Kondracki said the new version was different from, but respectful of, Lindsay's book or Weir's "canonical" movie, which she labelled "one of the first few films that put Australian cinema on the map".

As to the true-or-not origins of the dark story, she quipped: "I don't know, that's a mystery. It's a big mystery if it was or wasn't. I know the answer, but -- google it -- I won't tell you."