Review: Photographing Fairies (1997)

Review: Photographing Fairies (1997)

What could have been a nice, independent movie ends up over-produced


Photographing Fairies is an older film that I’d seen once before, shortly after its initial release, and decided to revisit on Netflix.  I couldn’t remember much of what it was about, so it was almost like watching it new again.  By the end I kind of wished I had decided on something else.  It’s not that the film is completely bad.  In fact, the screenplay is really quite interesting.  But some mediocre acting (aside from Ben Kingsley, who is always great) and a strange atmosphere of over-production killed it for me.

First and foremost, the movie is about loss and a sort-of redemption.  The main character, Charles Castle (Toby Stephens) loses his wife the day after they are married and becomes a bit cynical because of it.  He ends up as a photographer who specializes in creating photographic illusions as well as dispelling them.  A woman shows up one day with a picture of a fairy that she took and asks him to see if the creature can be explained through the science of photo.  He determines it to be a trick at first but then realizes that something more is happening.

In order to discover the truth, he makes a trip to the countryside where the woman lives and tracks down where the fairies supposedly reside.  Through the aid of a flower/drug and his cameras, he takes more pictures and has some revelations.  In the meanwhile, people end up dead and injured because of the fairies, albeit indirectly, and Castle has a conflict with the woman’s husband, Reverend Templeton (Ben Kingsley).

One of the biggest problems with the film was the soundtrack.  It was overbearing and a bit too dramatic at several points in the film and detracted from the story.  Also, the camerawork and production values were just too high for a film that should have had a more personal appeal.  Add to that a very wooden performance by Stephens and what was a great story became mediocre.

If this movie were to be remade in a more stylistic manner, it could be a wonderful film.  The themes of loss, faith and redemption play well through the movie.  And the end leaves you wondering about what was really going on the whole time.  While I wouldn’t recommend avoiding the film entirely, I wouldn’t suggest actively seeking it out either, unless you happen to have a thing for fairy stories.