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 <email@example.com>
Let me start by saying I liked this movie. It has wonderful cinematography, an interesting story line, and a competent cast which evokes the period in question (WWI England). I probably wouldn't have watched it having seen the title, but while surfing the satellite channels, I came upon a scene with Peter O'Toole and Harvey Keitel, and I was transfixed.
It's true that the story was inspired by a true story. I deliberately say "inspired" rather than "based" since the filmmakers did not base much of anything on reality. It's true that two girls (16 and 10, not the younger ages depicted in the movie) revealed photographs they had taken of "fairies" in the woods, and it's also true that Arthur Conan Doyle ate it up like Orson Welles at a smorgasbord. That's where the true part of the movie begins and ends.
Really, the filmmakers should be ashamed of themselves for adding "A True Story" to the title. They graphically and unequivocally showcase the fairies/gnomes/little people flying, scrambling, and cavorting in the woods -- if this is "true," why not come out with their own set of "Cottingley photos"? The movie is very entertaining, it's a well-done fantasy and has a magical air to it, but please! Please don't call it a true story! It's an insult to the movie audience.
Leaving out that the girls themselves, in later years, admitted the photos were faked, and leaving out that the poses of the "fairies" are identical to those in an illustration in a book of poems and stories that the girls no doubt possessed, one can tell instantly that the photos are fakes, and in my mind, not even clever ones. Conan Doyle was so gullible that he is on record disbelieving American "psychics" the Fox sisters when they themselves admitted their antics were all a hoax! He maintained that the spirits were acting through the sisters, even if they didn't believe so and were deliberately faking their seances! So let's not attach too much importance to Doyle believing in these fairy pictures. And Houdini is thrown in there for no good reason, simply because the writers discovered that he and Doyle were friends.
Still, as I say, it's an engaging movie, well acted and filmed. I would have much preferred the director had left out the fairy scenes. Without those, they could have kept the true story aspect in all honesty, leaving the audience to decide whether the girls were charlatans or not. Leaving "A True Story" in the title is not only dishonest and misleading, it detracts from what otherwise is a very compelling and entertaining tale of two little girls and a wartime public, some of whom were desperate enough to believe in fairies!
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