Photographing Faeries * Nick Willing * 1997

This review isn’t for the ‘usual Monas visitor’ as you can tell from the title, so don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!

Simply not the film that I would normally watch, but when I saw the title in the TV-guide, I had to think of a certain story. Then I noticed the year 1914 in the description of the film, so I was pretty sure that I was thinking about the right story, of which I never new that it was set to film.

The story came to me when I was still much engaged with Theosophical literature. It is a story in which photos of two children with elves/faeries caused a big stir in the UK around the beginning of WWI. The still young Theosophical Society plunged onto the story and presented the pictures of prove of what they had been telling for the last 40 years. The film seems to be just based on this story, since it is quite different from the actual events.

The film begins when Charles Castle (Toby Stephen) looses the woman he just married a day before in a snowstorm in Switserland. During WWI he becomes a photographer with nothing to live for and after the war he moved to London and became a professional photographer. When at a Theosophical meeting Edward Gardner showed a photo with faeries which Castle easily exposed as a forgery.
Later a woman that Castle had seen at the meeting, came to his office with a photo of one of her daughters on another photo from “the Cottingly series”, that Castle couldn’t unmask that easily. Slowly he became intrigued by the woman, her daughters and their story. In the film Doyle tries to make photos of the elf-folk himself as he became a believer and found out how his sight could slow-down enough to see the creatures. He has a fight with the husband of Beatrice after she died and as the husband (a priest) died during a stuggle, Castle is convicted and hanged.

In fact, the photographer and writer Arthur Conan Doyle (who is only shortly mentioned in the film) and the Theosophist Gardner started to do investigations themselves with the help of the ‘unknown clairvoyant’ (the Theosophist Geoffry Hodson) after Doyle wrote a book about the elves. Gardner also travelled through the UK and Switserland searching for faeries between 1920 and 1925 by himself.

In the end all of the photos were proved to be forgeries or plays of light and the story has ever since be controversial in and outside Theosophical circles. The film is of course rather boring, but one scene in which Doyle has his first ‘vision’ is really great with objects moving very slowly and other very fast. The subject is neither very interesting, but I was just curious if there would be any reference to the Theosophical Society and there was here and there. The TS is depicted as a bunch of superstitious spiritualists having sceances and trying to call on dead family-members. I don’t know about the TS of that time, but I suppose 40 years after the foundation, there were still at least some serious seekers for the thruth.

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