There is a paperback book on my shelf, yellowed and worn. One might say well-loved — the front cover is attached by little more than habit. It is a copy of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, and it is absolutely priceless. Before it came to me, this book belonged to my grandmother Luisa Donzelli Saitta; her name is written in it in graceful script, and underneath in careful child’s cursive, my own. I would dump everything else I own in a lake before letting something happen to my Nonnina’s edition of The Little Prince. It is a very important story for me, and like all Very Important Stories, it has meaning that resonates deep in my heart, deeper than the words on the page. I saw the Gene Wilder musical version once while visiting my grandmother’s house, but even as a small Gene Wilder-enamored tot, it did nothing for me. I mean, have you seen it? It’s fine, but — nah. Just, nah. You can’t just take the general concept of a book like that, extract the heart and replace it with dancing. I am very proprietary about my childhood loves and fear change, so when I first heard that a CGI adaptation of The Little Prince was in the works, I barely paid attention.
So I want you to understand the full meaning behind my next statement: when I watched the new trailer for Mark Osborne’s The Little Prince, I started sobbing:
It’s in French, for cripes sake — I don’t even speak French. So I collected myself and watched it again, and cried even harder. Like the montage scene in Hugo, that level of breakdown. Now, I have been known to cry over phone ads, sweet e-mails, and pictures of hedgehogs in tiny hats, but this one really got to me. I will probably be an embarrassment. Like, I might need to go see a matinee, on a weekday. By myself.
The film is shown to be a story within a story, being told Princess Bride-style to a little girl. These original characters in the ‘real world’ of the movie are your basic Dreamworks-esque wide-eyed standard issue. The girl is studious and serious; her neighbor has a telescope and a story to tell. But when the first page of the book uncrinkles, unfolds to show the original Saint-Exupery illustration, an ethereal cover of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ starts to play, and we are transported to this whimsical folded-paper world — the world of the story itself. And just like that, I was on board. In thirty seconds I changed from a skeptic to a mess, absolutely touched and entirely charmed. I feel like this movie could really get it, like we might be privileged enough to experience a true adaptation of a small story that is so deeply personal for those who love it. I can’t wait to see the Prince meet the Aviator and begin to tell his tale. I am so excited to visit his little planet, and to see Osborne’s vision of his story, his Rose, his Fox, and all the Very Strange grown-ups he meets.
Stories touch us because we can see ourselves in them — how we’ve lived, who we’ve been, who we would like ourselves to be. As little girls, we sometimes had to look harder to find ourselves in the important stories, because they were all about boys having adventures. Deciding to tell this story from the point of view of a little girl being told the tale is a wonderful, unexpected and important choice. There are no women in the story unless you count the Rose, and it would have been so simple to let that be. Giving that to us feels like a gift, and I believe it could be the key to the most faithful adaptation yet. Because the story of The Little Prince is a living, shifting thing; it changes with you as you grow. It becomes something different – no less important, just important in a different way. It’s no postmodernist tome that exists whether or not you care; its entire point is that you need to care, and conversely it is a story that cares about you deeply. Showing somebody transformed by the story is the story, in a way, and I think that is really going to be something.