ReelReviews #33: Photographing Fairies (1997)










This is the second of two films released in 1997 about the famous 1912 “Cottingley Fairies” incident (see my previous review if you need to know the details of what that was) As is the case of many copycat films, like Antz and A Bugs Life, or Volcano and Dante’s Peak, I expected to see deja vu. In reality, the films compliment one another nicely, precisely because they tell opposite versions of the same story, and are film sides of the same coin.




Fairy Tale: A True Story is direct, modest, sweet-natured, and aimed at children. Photographing Fairies is vague, cynical, full of high brow ideas, bleak, and aimed at adults. Whereas Fairy Tale tells the point of view of the story from the girls themselves and features photographic experts as only minor characters who appear in the middle of the film to advance the plot, Photographing Fairies does the opposite and tells the story from the point of view of a professional photographer who has heard about the incident, and the girls themselves appear only in the middle of the film, as minor characters.



With sex scenes and death scenes, this film is definitely not for the kiddies. Still, it does summarize its ideas in much the same way that Fairy Tale does – the movie is ambiguous about whether the event itself is a hoax, and “real” fairies and magical make a brief appearance in this film as well – only thing is the film does it to introduce the concept of whether people were suffering from hallucinations and mass hysteria, or something else altogether that can’t be explained.



I recommend viewing both films back to back to get a complete sense of the story, since both films only loosely adapt bits and pieces of the Cottingley Fairies incident in order to drive events in the narrative they want to tell. It’s fascinating how the same incident can inspire two vastly different movies.






*** out of ****



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