Photographing Fairies (1998)
Main cast: Toby Stephens (Charles Castle), Frances Barber (Bea Templeton), Ben Kingsley (Rev Templeton), and Emily Woof (Linda)
Director: Nick Willing

Charles Castle is a man who watches his wife of one year die in a snowstorm during their first anniversary. With that, he has lost the will to live. A photographer, he lives through WW1 (he was a photographer as well as British soldier) to be a cold, repressed skeptic who exposes fake spiritualism of the early 1900s even as he secretly hopes to find a way to be reunited with his wife. At the height of the "fairy photography" craze of the 1920s, Charles is approached by Bea Templeton who has unwittingly caught a photograph of her daughter and a strange apparition in her hand. A fairy? Charles scoffs, but soon, he begins to doubt his initial judgement. He sets off after the Templetons, and soon find himself believing and doing anything to find peace and be reunited with his wife.

All I can say is I'm glad I picked this one up from the video store. This is simply one of the best movies I have ever seen in a long time. Even as I write this, I'm still haunted by the ending and the emotions the movie caused me to feel. I can say that this movie is a whimsical, beautifully eccentric story of a man's journey to find inner peace and connection with his soul. It can be a haunting lullaby of a dark fairy tale. Or it can be the chronicle of a man's descend into madness brought upon by solitude, loneliness, and alienation. Whatever it is, it moves me deeply into tears of both grief and joy. The movie has a twofold message: love found is wealth and life itself, and love found is an event to be mourned for its loss would mean desolation. It is essentially the story of Charles Castle, but it is also a story of man's self-discovery of life. Life is an event of impermanence to be rejoiced and death is not the end, but merely a transition into a better world. I know I sound corny here, but the movie conveys so many complex messages in ways so subtle yet powerful it is a celebration of my senses.

The secondary characters are very well-done too. Ben Kingsley's Reverend is a man who stubbornly clings to his views to dire consequences, and Emily Woof plays a nanny who falls for Castle, a relationship that is doomed because he can't see any woman but his dead wife. Her character displays surprising steel however, for at the end she says wistfully that yes, she wants one man only, but that man may not need to be Charles. I want a man who loves me as much as he loves her she says, a bittersweet look of longing and love lost in her face. But the main star is Toby Stephens, whose Castle, while maintaining a stiff distance from everyone around him, simply radiates painful and dark melancholy. He's definitely a haunted romantic hero. I find myself hoping Castle is happy, wherever he is, with his wife.

I really can't adequately express my feeling about this movie. Every scene is a tapestry of beauty, pain, darkness, and light. Every line hurts as well as warms. To call this movie beautiful is a lamentable understatement. I am moved, I am touched, I care, and I feel. To me, that is enough. I'm buying a copy of this for my own.

Rating: 96

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