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2016.08.05 《小王子》重生

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The Little Prince reborn
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s story of a pilot who befriends an otherworldly child has bewitched seven decades of readers. A new adaptation reinvents it for the Netflix generation

Aug 5th 2016 (Updated Aug 10th 2016)


By Tim Martin

In Mark Osborne’s fantastically clever film adaptation of “The Little Prince”, the French aviator and novelist Antoine de Saint-Exupéry lives on in a daringly counterfactual way. According to history, Saint-Exupéry died when his plane went down in 1944, on a reconnaissance mission over occupied French waters. The previous year, before leaving New York for North Africa to rejoin his squadron, he had tossed a paper parcel containing some handwritten drafts and drawings onto the hall table of his friend Silvia Hamilton. “I'd like to give you something splendid,” she remembered him saying, “but this is all I have.”

Those pages, printed as a book the same year, went on to become one of the most popular works of fiction in the world. They told the story of a downed aviator in the desert, desperate for water and on the point of death, who encounters a tiny aristocratic alien wandering in the dunes and settles down to hear his stories about his tiny home planet, the vain and capricious rose he cherishes, and his journey through the cosmos to Earth on a flock of birds. Saint-Exupéry died before he could bank a single royalty cheque, but in the seven decades since then, more than 140m copies of “The Little Prince” have been sold – fewer than “The Hobbit”, but more than any of the Harry Potters, any of the Beatrix Potters, any Agatha Christie mysteries or “The Catcher in the Rye”. Its mournful story has been adapted for television, for the stage, as an opera, as several musicals (one by Lerner and Loewe) and as films in Germany, Russia, France and America. (Orson Welles, fascinated by the book, once got as far as setting up a meeting with Walt Disney to discuss a joint adaptation; the plan collapsed when the great animator stormed out proclaiming that there “wasn't room on this lot for two geniuses”.)

Osborne’s animated film takes a thrilling approach to the weight of history pressing on its material. It imagines a world in which Saint-Exupéry – or, at least, a philosophical ex-aviator with a sheaf of drawings about a little prince – lived on to become an enthusiastic old crackpot in a tumbledown house, pottering away at toys and inventions and trying to restore an ancient biplane to life. Around his home stretch miles and miles of identical boxy suburbs (square trees, square houses, square cars) inhabited by grim-faced adults dedicated to lives of work and order. In one of them lives an eight-year-old girl, enslaved by her high-strung mother to a summer of lessons and a formidable Life Plan that occupies the entire kitchen wall. But on her desk, one evening, lands a paper plane which, unfolded, reveals a handwritten story about a prince, a planet and a rose.

These and other narrative liberties make Osborne’s film less an adaptation than an elaborate conversation with the book. While almost everything in “The Little Prince” is present in the film, rendered in a paper-and-clay style that makes a glorious contrast with the computer-generated animation of the contemporary scenes, there’s also a much larger framing story that expands the cryptic parables of the original. Many of the characters who occupy a bare page or two in Saint-Exupéry’s novella – the king who reigns over his tiny planet, commanding the sun to set at precisely 7:20 “so you will see how well I am obeyed”; the businessman who claims to own the stars “because nobody else before me ever thought of owning them” – are given second acts, or set in a narrative framework that teases larger stories out of their emblematic figures while leaving the templates, visible and intact, at the core.

With its complex mixture of adult disenchantment and childlike longing, dream and reality, misanthropy and hope, “The Little Prince” has always been a difficult book to parse. Like a number of other not-quite-children’s stories – Tove Jansson’s “Moomins” tales, Russell Hoban’s “The Mouse and his Child”, Astrid Lindgren’s “The Brothers Lionheart” – its story skates above yawning abysses of melancholy and sadness. Biographers have pointed to the death of Saint-Exupéry’s brother in childhood as the motor for the book’s story of unreclaimable loss, and to his troubled marriage with his wife Consuelo as the model for the Prince’s desertion of his manipulative rose; more conspiratorial commentators have seen the mood of wistful gloom, and the sinister consolations of its serpentine angel of death, as the literary expression of the author’s death wish. The book has been read as an allegory of the dehumanising effect of war, as a hymn to the value of friendship and compassion, as an outgrowth of Saint-Exupéry’s own existentialist philosophy and as everything in between; its very sparseness and mystery have invited 70 years of readers to insert themselves into the gaps.

The striking double story in Osborne’s film, flitting between the desert scenes of the novel and a sequence of wilder contemporary fantasies, also lets him offer compassionate glosses to these mysterious aspects. The aviator’s sorrow at the death of the prince is reflected in the modern heroine’s realisation that her elderly friend will also die; the troublesome elements of the rose’s characterisation are balanced by the decision to build a larger story around a girl and her mother. The result is a film that seeks to accompany rather than imitate, one that tells a modern children’s story around “The Little Prince” but still resonates with its most important themes. P.L. Travers, whose Mary Poppins books often inhabit similarly ominous territory, correctly noted in an early review that “The Little Prince” was likely to “shine upon children with a sidewise gleam” and “strike them in some place that is not the mind and glow there until the time comes for them to comprehend it”. But why wait? This splendid and sensitive adaptation, a lesson in its own particular field, offers the best of both.

“The Little Prince” premieres on Netflix on August 5th





这些页面在同年被印成书,后来成为世界上最受欢迎的小说作品之一。它们讲述了这样一个故事:一个在沙漠中被击落的飞行员,对水感到绝望,濒临死亡,他遇到了一个在沙丘上徘徊的小贵族外星人,并安下心来听他讲述他的小母星、他珍爱的虚荣和任性的玫瑰,以及他乘坐鸟群穿越宇宙来到地球。圣-埃克苏佩里在开出一张版税支票之前就去世了,但在此后的70年里,《小王子》的销量超过了1.4亿册--比《霍比特人》少,但比《哈利-波特》、《碧翠丝-波特》、阿加莎-克里斯蒂的任何一部推理小说或《麦田里的守望者》都多。它那悲伤的故事被改编为电视、舞台、歌剧、几部音乐剧(其中一部由Lerner和Loewe创作)以及德国、俄罗斯、法国和美国的电影。(奥森-威尔斯对这本书非常着迷,他曾安排与沃尔特-迪斯尼会面,讨论联合改编的问题;当这位伟大的动画师宣布 "这块地盘容不下两个天才 "时,这个计划就崩溃了)。



小王子》以其复杂的方式混合了成人的失落和儿童的渴望、梦想和现实、厌世和希望,一直是一本很难解析的书。就像其他一些不算是儿童故事的故事--托芙-扬松的 "姆明斯 "故事、罗素-霍本的 "老鼠和他的孩子"、阿斯特丽德-林格伦的 "狮心兄弟"--它的故事在忧郁和悲伤的大渊中滑行。传记作者指出,圣埃克苏佩里的弟弟在童年时的死亡是该书中无法挽回的损失的动机,而他与妻子康苏埃洛的麻烦婚姻则是王子抛弃其操纵的玫瑰的典范;更多阴谋论者认为,这种充满希望的阴郁气氛以及蛇形的死亡天使的阴险安慰是作者对死亡愿望的文学表达。这本书被解读为战争非人化效应的寓言,是对友谊和同情心价值的赞美,是圣埃克苏佩里自己的存在主义哲学的产物,也是两者之间的一切;它的稀疏性和神秘性吸引了70年来的读者将自己插入其中。

奥斯本电影中引人注目的双重故事,在小说中的沙漠场景和一系列更狂野的当代幻想之间穿梭,也让他为这些神秘的方面提供了富有同情心的光泽。飞行员对王子之死的悲伤反映在现代女主人公意识到她的老年朋友也将死去;玫瑰花的性格描述中的麻烦因素被决定围绕一个女孩和她的母亲建立一个更大的故事所平衡。其结果是,这部电影试图陪伴而不是模仿,它围绕《小王子》讲述了一个现代儿童故事,但仍然与它最重要的主题产生了共鸣。P.L.特拉弗斯的《玛丽-波平斯的书》也经常出现在类似的不祥之地,他在早期的评论中正确地指出,《小王子》可能会 "以一种侧向的光辉照耀着孩子们","在某个不是心灵的地方击中他们,并在那里发光,直到他们理解它的时机到来"。但为什么要等待呢?这部精彩而敏感的改编作品,在其自身的特定领域中是一门课程,提供了两者的最佳选择。

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