Photographing Fairies

  • Film
  • Period and swashbuckler films
Devastated by the death of his true love, photographer Charles Castle (Stephens) withdraws into a life of rational scepticism, calmly plying his trade through the trenches of WWI and its aftermath. When a woman brings him a photograph of her two girls playing with little winged creatures, it seems genuine; and upon investigation, Charles awakens to new possibilities and discovers a flower which, when consumed, provides sensory access to a world of fairies. This first feature (from the book by Steve Szilagyi) is a resolutely modern period drama, a grown-up fairytale for the '90s. One can quibble with the overly precise, determined dialogue, and the dramatic weight Emily Woof's character (Charles' potential real-world lover) must bear in a secondary but pivotal role, but these are minor failings, and director Nick Willing otherwise shows a sure sense of judgment. Aided by a fine cast (notably Kingsley as the girls' vicar father) and, appropriately, stunning photography by John de Borman, it's a fresh, rewarding film, intelligent and very beautiful. (See also FairyTale - A True Story.

Release details

Duration: 106 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Nick Willing
Screenwriter: Nick Willing, Chris Harrald
Cast: Toby Stephens
Emily Woof
Frances Barber
Phil Davis
Ben Kingsley
Rachel Shelley
Edward Hardwicke

Average User Rating

5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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Alexander Morison

I am intruiged by this film because the story is probably the most accurate reflection on the state of the collective psyche of post-Victorian British people ever made in cinema history. In examination of this period of the twentieth century, it is difficult and dumbfounding to contemplate the sensory effects on the British of the dynamic changes in social and world order after the death of Queen Victoria. All of the optimism and expectation of a new order of freedom and expression in Edwardian Britain was utterly destroyed by the tragedy of the great war but this film 'grabs' a small piece of it and slaps us in the face with a passionate hand. For non-historians the film is a pure fantasy that is well filmed and enjoyably aesthetic but this tiny part of history is worthy of the production because it is not as far fetched as it may seem. I particularly liked the acknowledgement of the complexities of these achingly painful times by showing naked fairies in a seeming tribute to the enormous impact that Stravinski's 'Rites Of Spring' had on the western world in the years preceeding the great war. All that beauty, then all that destruction. The menagerie of images here is a perfect examination of this phenomenon and because of this, the film takes on a new meaning as an historical document as well as a story.

Alexander Morison

I am intruiged by this film because the story is probably the most accurate reflection on the state of the collective psyche of post-Victorian British people ever made in cinema history. In examination of this period of the twentieth century, it is difficult and dumbfounding to contemplate the sensory effects on the British of the dynamic changes in social and world order after the death of Queen Victoria. All of the optimism and expectation of a new order of freedom and expression in Edwardian Britain was utterly destroyed by the tragedy of the great war but this film 'grabs' a small piece of it and slaps us in the face with a passionate hand. For non-historians the film is a pure fantasy that is well filmed and enjoyably aesthetic but this tiny part of history is worthy of the production because it is not as far fetched as it may seem. I particularly liked the acknowledgement of the complexities of these achingly painful times by showing naked fairies in a seeming tribute to the enormous impact that Stravinski's 'Rites Of Spring' had on the western world in the years preceeding the great war. All that beauty, then all that destruction. The menagerie of images here is a perfect examination of this phenomenon and because of this, the film takes on a new meaning as an historical document as well as a story.