First published in 1943 the novella “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is one of the bestselling books of all time. The short tale of a child—the little prince—who travels the universe gaining wisdom still sells almost 200 millions copies a year. “Invisible Essence: The Little Prince,” a new film from director Charles Officer, attempts to dissect the books popularity from an academic, artistic and global perspective.
“Invisible Essence: The Little Prince” mixes talking heads, including The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik, poet Rupi Kaur, filmmaker Mark Osborne, St-Exupéry biographer Stacy Schiff and the author’s great nephew and nephew Olivier and François d’Agay, with the touching story of a seven year-old blind Pakistani-Canadian boy who learns about the fable’s famous line, “what is essential is invisible to the eye” to grasp the book’s fundamental message of respect for humanity.
The new documentary footage is underscored by excerpts from a 1974 audio adaptation of the story starring Richard Burton and Jonathan Winters, clips from Osborne’s animated feature, a live action feature from director Stanley Donen and scenes from Guillaume Côté’s 2016 production at the National Ballet of Canada.
The result is a deep dive not only into the book but, just as importantly, the influence the book has had on several generations of artists and readers. It essays how imagination and inspiration are inextricably linked, and how both, plus a love of aviation fuelled Saint-Exupéry’s creation of “The Little Prince.”