Invisible Essence: The Little Prince
Charles Officer, director and script
Full length documentary featuring: Sahil, Mark Osborne, Guillaume Côté, Olivier d’Agay, Adam Gopnik, Rupi Kaur, Sarah Marder-Eppstein, Christine Nelson, Stacy Schiff, Eric-Emmanuel Shmitt, Alain Vircondelet, and images of Saint-Exupery and The Little Prince
What turns certain books into classics? Scott Fitzgerald wrote some fine novels and many terrific short stories but it’s The Great Gatsby we return to read again and again. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is clearly the product of the same novelist as Sense and Sensibility but which is the overwhelming favourite? If you have the time, you can easily read all of J.D. Salinger’s work but the only one you have to encounter in your life is The Catcher in the Rye. So it is with the vast majority of writers including the very gifted Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Wind, Sand and Stars and Night Flight are certainly lovely books but The Little Prince is his classic: the masterpiece that has inspired children and adults since its publication near the end of the Second World War.
Canadian director Charles Officer is clearly someone who has fallen under The Little Prince’s spell. His documentary Invisible Essence: The Little Prince is a free flowing poetic evocation of the power of the book. It recounts the legendary life of the acclaimed aviator and author Saint-Exupery via a range of superb archival footage, invokes the plot of the book while showing how the story of the little prince affects school children today and traces the potential inspirations for the characters in the classic fable. Adding to the visual variety in the doc, Officer offers excerpts from the Stanley Donen musical, Guillaume Côté’s choreography for the National Ballet of Canada’s production, and Mark Osborne’s animation feature film versions of The Little Prince.
The Little Prince is a complex parable about the nature of the world. It’s told through the story of a downed pilot in the Sahara and his encounter with a little prince from another planet who is his companion during his time he’s fixing his airplane. The two develop a deep friendship as the prince tells fantastic tales that denounce businessmen and drunkards and narcissists while asserting that there is beauty in the world, which can be seen with the heart, not the eyes.
Officer’s greatest inspiration in making this marvelous evocation of Saint-Exupery’s greatest work is in filming the story of Sahil, a blind Canadian boy, who hears the story of The Little Prince while also reading a braille edition. We understand that this is Sahil’s amazing journey, much like the kind that Saint-Exupery made when he was an acclaimed pilot in France and the Sahara between the two world wars. The dreamy author and his latest young admirer both see truth through the heart, not the eyes. In this charming documentary, Charles Officer shows that he understands the reason why only a precious few books become classics: they’re made with genuine creative magic.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
Tune in to hear Marc Glassman’s Art Reviews
Friday’s at 9:07am on Classical Mornings with Mike and Jean