There is a tiny book that has made a lot of impact in my life and that is The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Back in what seems like forever ago, also known as 2015, Netflix took on the extraordinary challenge to create a feature length film of the book. At first, I was sincerely worried. Would they be able to capture the same light-hearted innocence? Would they hint at the deeper life lessons hidden inside?
Turns out they did, and they did a stunning job of it. The movie makes me cry every time I watch it. It’s one of the few movies that even knowing that I’ll cry, that I still will watch regularly. I’ve seen it *gasp* more than Titanic. Hard to believe, but true.
The book all by itself is full of wonderful flights of the imagination and comes packaged in a lovely narrative frame using an older narrator, the Aviator to guide us through the pages. Taking inspiration from that literary framing, the movie took the idea one step further by framing it again from the perspective of a little girl who gets told the story when she needed it most.
It was a risk that I feel payed off. Not only did it give the watcher the opportunity to see the story through the eyes of a child, but it showed how that child changed. This little girl is the opposite of both the aviator and the Little Prince. Daughter of a hard working accountant, she was given no room for creativity in her life. She is destined to go to the prestigious Wentworth Academy and to do so must spend each waking minute hard at work studying and writing papers.
To emphasize the difference between the girls life and that of the story of the Little Prince, her scenes are rendered in clean computer animation which feels symbolic of the clean orderly straightforward life she is living in. The only break from the orderliness is the home of her neighbor, a raggity collection of angles and ideas that have all hunkered together into a modpodged whole.
When we watch the Little Prince scenes, they are created in breathtaking stop motion – all done with gorgeous paper crafting. It is as if the story itself has risen from the scraps of paper and colored pencil in which the Aviator has written it. If you still haven’t made up your mind to watch this movie, do it just to see how pretty it all is. You won’t regret it. It is truly art in motion.
The girl needs someone to show her what it means to be a child. If you recall, one of the biggest complaints that the character of the Aviator makes is that adults forget everything important when they grow up. They forget how to play and have fun and start believing all life is is work and being paid and in turn paying bills.
The story of the Little Prince is revealed to us one piece as a time as it is shared by the girl’s eccentric neighbor, a quirky elderly gentleman who once was the Aviator. He’s childlike in his fascinations with color and story and is always working on something wild and wonderful. It is him, not the story that get’s the little girl to finally pay attention to why wonder and play is so important.
Some would argue that they took a few too many liberties when it came to the movie’s ending. At the beginning, I was one of them. Instead of ending the story with the end of the book, they extended the story and showed what happened to the Little Prince when he became and adult and forgot everything important. It takes a journey of the girl to save him and remind him of what was truly important, his planet, asteroid B612 and his rose.
By saving him, the girl in turn saves herself from growing up too fast. She proves that she can enjoy the best of both worlds and be responsible as well as fun loving. She even shows her mother, who has the best of intentions but not perhaps the best tools, how to enjoy the little things.
In the end, the 2015 Netflix production of the Little Prince is both charming and profound, It’s a wonderful reminder of the things that are truly important.