Photographing Fairies

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Photographing Fairies
Photographing fairies.jpg
Directed by Nick Willing
Produced by Michele Carmarda
Written by Book Author:
Steve Szilagyi
Nick Willing
Chris Harrald
Starring Toby Stephens
Emily Woof
Ben Kingsley
Frances Barber
Philip Davis
Music by Simon Boswell
Cinematography John DeBorman
Edited by Sean Barton
Distributed by Entertainment Film Distributors (UK)
Release dates
Running time
104 min.
Country UK
Budget $1 million
Box office $4.6 million

Photographing Fairies is a 1997 fantasy film based on Steve Szilagyi's 1992 novel of the same title.


This film explores some of the themes of folklore, such as: possession, paganism, animism, hallucinogens, parapsychology and fairies. It was inspired by the Cottingley Fairies hoax.


"Frances Griffiths with Fairies"; the Cottingley Fairies photograph featured in the film.

In Switzerland in 1912, photographer Charles Castle (Toby Stephens) and Anna-Marie, his fiancèe, are married in an Alpine church. The following day, they are walking in the mountains when a snowstorm closes in. They are returning to the village when a crevasse opens and Anna-Marie falls into it. Charles tries to pull her out but he loses his grip and she dies. During the Great War, Castle serves as an army photographer in the trenches of France. He is photographing corpses with his assistant Roy (Phil Davis) when a mortar lands close by. Roy returns to the trenches but Castle seems unconcerned and continues photographing. He returns to the trenches just before the mortar explodes.

After the war, Castle and Roy run a photographic studio in London. Castle specialises in photographic trick work, including photomontage. He attends a lecture at the Theosophical Society, where Arthur Conan Doyle is examining a projected image of the Cottingley Fairies. Conan Doyle seems convinced they are genuine, but Castle stands, publicly debunks the image and hands out business cards to the audience.

At his studio, Castle is visited by Beatrice Templeton (Frances Barber), who shows him a photograph of her daughter. She is convinced that a mysterious shape is a fairy, but Castle dismissed the idea. However, he investigates the photograph, sees the shape laterally reflected in the girl's eye and makes multiple large prints to discover how the picture was made. Unable to explain or debunk the photograph, Castle hastily travels to see Beatrice in a village called Birkenwell, where upon arrival he sees and recognises Templeton's daughters, Ana (Miriam Grant) and Clara (Hannah Bould), and follows them to their home. Beatrice tells Castle that the photograph no longer matters – she has seen the fairies. She asks him to meet her at the great tree in Birkenwell Woods the following day.

At the appointed time, Castle walks to the great tree, where Beatrice is waiting. Before he arrives, she removes her hat and shoes then climbs the tree. When he arrives, Castle discovers Beatrice's removed clothing, then finds her lifeless body on the ground. After making a statement at the local police station, Castle encounters the Templeton girls, who are greeted by their father, a Christian minister.[1]


Critical reception[edit]

Time Out London said of Photographing Fairies "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."[3]

The film holds a 100% rating based on 6 reviews.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nick Willing (Director) (1997). Photographing Fairies (VHS Film). England, Switzerland, Elstree Studios: Entertainment in Video. 
  2. ^ "BBC Two: Photographing Fairies". BBC. 
  3. ^ "Photographing Fairies". Time Out. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  4. ^

External links[edit]