Based on factual accounts, this is the story of two young girls that, somehow, have the ability to take pictures of winged beings... which certainly causes quite a stir throughout England during the time of the first World War. Everyone, except the girls who think it's quite normal, are excited about this "photographic proof" that fairies exist... even the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini pay the girls a visit. Written by
BOB STEBBINS <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Based on a famous "Cottingley fairies" hoax perpetrated by two English girls during World War I in 1917, "FairyTale: A True Story" presents alternate views of reality to suggest that, like the view of Aborigines, dreams are as real as conscious reality. If you take the special effects fairies too literally in this film, you will miss the point. The film plays a trick on you, just as the original incident played a trick on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1917. Houdini, as played by Harvey Keitel, gets the point. Although he's one to debunk mystics who defraud the gullible, he too trades on people's need to believe in magic. The girls' deception is also a sort of benign fraud. As any magician, they should never reveal their "secret." The film invites comparisons to the famous French classic, "Forbidden Games" in which children construct an elaborate fantasy world as a way of coping with the reality of war. Here too, the girls use fairies to fill the void in their lives left by their father, who has gone "missing" on the front in France. "I know what they mean by 'missing,'" says one of the sisters, conscious of reality but hoping to "believe" in the unlikely event of his return. This is not a kiddie film, but a langorous period piece on the nature of belief and faith in the face of empirical skepticism. The film reinforces its theme with beautiful details, as at the end when the father says he smells the perfume which isn't there, or in the ghostly intrusion of a dead brother that changes the mind of a skeptical reporter. Even the final sequence, involving fairies, is so charming it steers clear of cynical manipulation. Although there are moments when the plot seems to become arbitrary or plodding, it's all tied up neatly and beautifully in a magical finale. I'd hesitate to call this a classic, but it is a worthwhile "sleeper." Just bring an open mind and heart.
29 of 32 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?