Photographing Fairies (1997)

R  |   |  Drama, Fantasy, Mystery  |  19 September 1997 (UK)
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Reviews: 42 user | 8 critic

Photographer Charles Castle is numbed with grief following the death of his beautiful bride. He goes off to war, working in the trenches as a photographer. Following the war and still in ... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Charles Castle
Reverend Templeton
Beatrice Templeton
Roy (as Phil Davis)
Hannah Bould ...
Clara Templeton
Miriam Grant ...
Ana Templeton
Mrs. Anne-Marie Castle
Clive Merrison ...
Stephen Churchett ...
Mr. Dawson
Mrs. Dawson
Maggie Wells ...
Mrs. Hoopdriver
Fierce Woman
Jeremy Young ...


Photographer Charles Castle is numbed with grief following the death of his beautiful bride. He goes off to war, working in the trenches as a photographer. Following the war and still in grief Charles is given some photographs purporting to be of fairies. His search for the truth leads him to Burkinwell, a seemingly peaceful village seething with secrets where he becomes drawn into a web of passion, romance and violence.. Written by Philip Stanton

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | Fantasy | Mystery

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some sexuality | See all certifications »




Release Date:

19 September 1997 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Der Elfengarten  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Edward Hardwicke, who plays Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, has played Conan Doyle's Dr. Watson many times. See more »


When discussing the original photograph with Beatrice Templeton (Frances Barber), Charles Castle (Toby Stephens) says that the supposed fairy in the image could just be a 'glitch in the emulsion'. The use of the word 'glitch' is anachronistic. Glitch, meaning a small fault, didn't come in to common parlance till the 1960s some 40+ years after the setting of this film. See more »


Version of BBC2 Play of the Week: Fairies (1978) See more »


Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92, II. Allegretto
Music by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performed by The Philharmonia Orchestra
Conducted and orchestrated by Terry Davies
See more »

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User Reviews

A superb British Fantasy
14 September 2000 | by (London) – See all my reviews

Along with other great English fantasy films like The Company of Wolves, Things to Come, The Devil Rides Out and Jonathan Millers's BBC-filmed production of Alice in Wonderland, this is an intelligent and complex production, miles away in mood and concern from the typical American product. In a film that reminds one of his father Robert's The Asphyx, (as it also involves the attempt to film the supernatural by nineteenth century photographers) Toby Stephens is ideal as the intense, mourning photographer Castle, haunted by the abrupt death of his wife.

The central concern of the film, that of seeing, or not seeing (or perhaps more perhaps *comprehending*, or not - is established in the opening shot of the film: the blurred face of Castle alone in the group photograph he takes of his wife and others. In an image which anticipates those of the fairies later on, he is the one blurred, here the 'ghost' on his film. Appropriately, in a film full of echoes and symbols, this long shot out from Castle's wife's iris recalls his later, obsessive, photographic enlargement of another eye: that of one of the girls photographed with fairies.

The death of his wife then reduces Castle further, through grief and shock, to a state almost like that of a somnambulist. He walks through life, hovering between the shades, oblivious to fear and the concerns of the real world - as evidenced by the unexploded bomb he encounters without any sense of danger, ticking like the time piece he keeps to remember his wife. Castle doesn't care. He wants to die - a sense of foreboding which stays with the viewer from the beginning to the end of the film. He even 'photographs the dead' in his studio, witnessed by his work for the soldier's parents. Even when a new sexual relationship becomes a possibility, later in the film, he cannot rejoin this aspect of life though spiritual malaise.

This thread is continued later in the scene later where Castle enters the church to hear a sermon by the bereaved Kingsley. Earlier that morning he has taken the flower-drug and has 'died' watching the fairies. Now he appears, bloodied like a victim in Macbeth, as the pale ghost at the ceremony..

Castle's attempt to photograph fairies, spirits who hover between life and death, is obviously an attempt to capture something back from the spirit world that has captured his wife. Such is the delicacy and subtlety of the films structure and symbolism, however, that at the end one could feasibly argue that Castle actually died with his wife on the mountain and - rather like in The Occurrence At Owl Bridge Creek - what has happened since the opening scenes has just been the dream of a dying man!

Performances are generally excellent (although Ben Kingsley's wig and stare are slightly disconcerting). Those who found the actual fairies disappointing in effect were perhaps expecting something grander. Some of Castle's hallucinations reminded me of Jacob's Ladder and Kingsley's demise of the killer's suicide in Peeping Tom.

As a last instance of the film's care with presentation and sophistication, one may take the music. The chief elements that reoccur are a sombre dirge like bass-motif and a light waltz. Only at the end of the film does recognise that the bass-motif is an altered element of the famous Beethoven slow movement which plays throughout the last few scenes. Like Castle himself, it is transfigured - or 'completed' by events.

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