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
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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

9 January 2006 | by See all my reviews

A few years ago I stumbled across this book by Steve Szilagyi (quite a name he got himself there), I read it a couple of times, thought it was an entertaining story with some interesting themes... and then I pretty much forgot all about it. Until now, where I stumbled across it on DVD, didn't even know it was made as a film, and so I gave it a shot yesterday, not hoping for much (tiny British films aren't always the epitome of excitement).

A positive surprise. The film is about a British photographer who's specialized in trick photography after he came home from WW1. He's a rational man, to the point where he's almost dead inside (the very opposite of Arthur Conan Doyle who also shows up in the tale, played by the guy who played Watson in the TV show btw) but that changes when a woman brings him some photos she claims show her daughters playing in their garden with a bunch of... you guessed it, fairies.

This is essentially a fantasy film, but it's not quite like most other fantasy films; questions about belief is the central theme, but it's stretched and played around with so it's constantly intriguing, even for a cynical agnostic (atheist if you're Christian) like me. Is heaven a state of mind, and if so, does that make it less worth? How do you find truth in life, and is it ever better to lie about the truth for the sake of those you love? Thematically they've incorporated many of the more "out there" ideas from the book in rather clever ways; drugs, sex, violence, are also themes in Szilagyi's innocently looking book, and the filmmakers have tried to stay true to this. This isn't some film about small creatures with crowns on their heads who smiles a lot, nor is it a funny Spielbergian flick, it's an exploration of grief and obsession and how those things can affect our beliefs, shake us to the very core. Yeah, it doesn't sound very jolly, which I guess it isn't, but it's interesting.

The cast is excellent, the music and photography far better then I had expected (same goes for the limited fx). Going by the cover and BBC's name on it somewhere, I actually thought it was maybe a TV movie. Really brilliant use of slow motion, not just for kicks, as a gimmick, even though it looks ravishing as well, but actually done in a meaningful way with regards to the plot (though that's easier to see if you've read the book).

The writers have changed a lot with regards to the plot; shuffled around, condensed, introduced new scenes/characters, and so on, but that's like it should be. Any attempt to take the book directly from the page would've failed miserably. They've even introduced a completely new intro & ending as well. It works like a charm, though some might find it a bit too convenient.

I did have some problems with it though... the lead is deliberately almost always kept at arms length, which is okay in some ways, but leads to detachment. I ended up finding his destiny more stimulating and interesting then gripping. There is also the inherent problem a book like this one poses when turned into a movie; how do you visualize ideas and thoughts. How do you visualize symbols? Film is a literal medium, and so it can't hide things the way language can, this film proofs that by coming up short in some of the books most magnificent sequences (but it improves on others); this isn't a fault from the filmmakers, what can they do after all, but it is a problem when they've chosen a story that is essentially more about mystical/spiritual question (going all new age here) then it is about the literal discovery of fairies.

Anyway, despite my few complaints, and despite the fact that this is not a mind blowing, life altering, hyper super fantastic religious experience of a film, I still highly recommend it. It's a rather unique and different attempt to play in the fantasy pen, and that is to be applauded I think. It's also pretty entertaining... if your idea of a good time is a bunch of Brits running around in gardens searching for fairies that is.

24 of 27 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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