The modern pressures of having a career and being on your feet, working 24/7, are issues that have been talked about for several decades. With the emergence of mechanization, on one hand, the working class hoped that machines would make their workload easier, while, on the other hand, a new fear of job loss began to sweep the population. Today, these pressures and fears are most significant to the growing generation that is about to enter the workforce and that has been dubbed just about everything from “the hopeful generation” to the “lost” one.
How do these issues relate to an animated movie? The French movie, The Little Prince, initially released last year in Europe and coming to theatres in English this year on March 18, addresses the challenges of growing up by taking a beloved classic and putting a new spin to it. For it is now more than ever that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s witty and honest prose is relevant. If he thought that his generation was going through a growing up crisis during World War I, then he would definitely have quite a bit to say about our society today.
True to its origins, The Little Prince film adaptation maintains the original novella’s plot, carefully weaving it into a fresh narrative that continues the magic into the present day. This is the first big plus of the film, as I found out for myself that a younger audience will most likely struggle with this new spin on the novella, to say nothing of how they would fare with a direct adaptation of the novella. Instead, the viewer is introduced to an unnamed cast of characters, being able to refer to them only as “The Little Girl,” “The Mother,” “The Aviator,” and “The Little Prince,” among others. At first glance, this seems impersonal, but I’d argue this is the very thing that makes the movie even more successful, beyond its new twist. The vagueness of the names allows the viewer to delve into each character and analyze them in a much more objective manner. It’s easy to imagine yourself or one of your parents as either “The Little Girl” or “The Mother,” yet this allows much more room for the “Yes, but” mindset to step in, preventing an outright disassembling of the characters in order to pick out the parts that are relatable and throwing out those that are not.
This leads me to discuss the way these characters all coexist in this new narrative world. In the beginning of the movie, a little girl and her mother sit in a drab, grey hallway and discuss a ‘game plan’ for a successful interview. Over the course of the next ten minutes or so, the viewer learns that the girl was hoping, as per her mother’s advice (or under her pressure), to enroll into a prestigious academy. Her résumé of achievements at her young age is impressive to the judges, so they declare they shall ask her only one question in order to judge whether she is fit to enroll. Much to the shock of both the girl and the mother, the question is not “Why are you worthy of attending,” but rather the much more open, and hence ‘dangerous,’ question of “What do you want to be when you grow up.” The pre-planned answer to the former is not applicable in this case, and the lack of preparedness catches the girl by surprise, causing her to faint.
Already, at ten minutes in, the viewer is presented with the theme of the movie, the crisis of growing up, which is taken directly from the present-day context. It isn’t surprising, then, to see the events that follow: the way in which The Mother plans out a strict schedule for her daughter to pass the entrance exam to the academy, and the shock of the seemingly absurd tale of The Little Prince that The Aviator presents to this young girl not long after.
How does one decide “what they want to do” in a time when we have what is, arguably, only an illusion of freedom? Artists and writers are frequently discouraged from their “fantasies” of pursuing creative jobs, which aren’t deemed “worthwhile” or the kind that is likely to bring in a “good income.” Professions such as lawyers and doctors seem like the best choice, at least to the concerned parent. But if you have everyone wanting to become lawyers and doctors, how many of them will truly be able to settle into the job market and be able to get that aforementioned high paying job?
More importantly: if everyone grows up and becomes serious, who will be left to dream, to wonder about the beauty of the sky because they know that somewhere a star is inhabited by a flower?
This is where the film offers some insight, continuing the story long after The Aviator has told The Little Girl about his encounter with The Little Prince. The viewer finally sees what is arguably the most difficult moment in any fairy tale: the possibility of the main character losing their magic, that spark that makes them stand out from all the others.
In order to keep my argument as spoiler-free as possible, I will refrain from delving into all the complexities that ensue in the latter part of the movie. But I have no doubts that this movie has been made at the perfect moment in time. I consider myself lucky to already have a passion and be following it—no matter how difficult it may be at times—but there are children growing up who do not have this comfort of confidence, or have had it taken away from them. This movie is an ode to them, and to the children inside us, acting as a reminder that we need to tend to them, just like to The Rose.
So when The Little Prince comes out this March in theatres, there are a slew of reasons why you should go see it: the animation is gorgeous, particularly the delicate and whimsical paper-like style that hearkens back to the original novella; and the soundtrack is composed by none other than the master Hans Zimmer himself. This is only to name a couple. But the main reason to see this movie would be to do so for yourself, for the glimmer of hope this movie brings in its successful attempt to bring back some of that magical, childish curiosity that each of us carries.
-Contributed by Margaryta Golovchenko