One of the biggest reasons why I have always wanted a Ryeowook solo is so that I could bask in his versatility. Ryeowook‘s willingness to experiment with different styles is refreshing and exciting. When his solo debut was announced, I could not wait for the possibilities. The Little Prince — a work adapted into plays, musicals, films and music videos — was a fitting concept for the man with the title of Eternal Maknae, but the announcement that title track “The Little Prince” would be a ballad gave me pause. The last thing I was expecting from a new Super Junior solo was Kyuhyun 2.0.
However, I realise now that I shouldn’t have been worried about a ballad making the MV boring — my concern should have been about the MV itself, which is almost overstuffed, yet unfulfilling.
This review contains spoilers for The Little Prince.
The Little Prince is a French novella by Antione de Saint-Exupéry, published in 1943. The tale is narrated by a pilot, who has crashed in the Sahara Desert. While stranded and attempting to repair his plane alone, he meets a young boy from outer space. Dubbing him ‘The Little Prince,’ the pilot narrator relays tales of the boy’s adventures — life on the asteroid he calls home, falling into a confusing love with a red rose that grows on the asteroid, and leaving his home (and rose) to find calm for his troubled and lonely heart. After coming to Earth, he eventually learns to understand his love for his red rose from a fox, and takes up a snake’s offer to return to his home and love.
The lyrics distil the novella into a four-and-a-half-minute song, applying the tale to reconciliation in one’s own relationship. There are references to the novella within the MV: from the paraphenalia scattered across the field; to Ryeowook’s wandering mimicking that of the little prince; to the MV’s focus on the rose, just like in the tale. The MV is at times awash with red: it’s in the wine, in Ryeowook’s coat and, of course, in the rose. Ryeowook dissolves into a shower of rose petals, the Escher stairs in the background symbolising his confused state. And finally, there is the woman in red that Ryeowook approaches, only for her to turn into the rose, shielded from the outside world — and Ryeowook — by its glass case.
Colour — coat colour in particular — plays a further role in representing Ryeowook’s journey of discovery: monochrome for his confusion and loneliness, green as he begins his travels, beige as despair starts to set in, and red when the denoument comes.
Another reference from the novella, that was also seen in the MV teaser, was the burning strips of paper. The words on them come from the little prince; he wants a sheep (drawn for him by the pilot) to eat sapling baobab trees, which grow too big for his small asteroid to contain. The pilot narrator notes that sheep will eat anything — even flowers with thorns. When the prince becomes concerned that his own rose’s thorns may not protect her, the pilot is flippant, leading to this outburst from the prince:
“For millions of years flowers have been producing thorns. For millions of years sheep have been eating them all the same. And it’s not serious, trying to understand why flowers go to such trouble to produce thorns that are good for nothing? It’s not important, the war between the sheep and the flowers? It’s no more serious and more important than the numbers that fat red gentleman is adding up? Suppose I happen to know a unique flower, one that exists nowhere in the world except on my planet, one that a little sheep can wipe out in a single bite one morning, just like that, without even realizing what he’d doing – that isn’t important? If someone loves a flower of which just one example exists among all the millions and millions of stars, that’s enough to make him happy when he looks at the stars. He tells himself ‘My flower’s up there somewhere…’ But if the sheep eats the flower, then for him it’s as if, suddenly, all the stars went out. And that isn’t important?”
At the end of the story, the most pressing concern for the pilot is whether the sheep he drew would end up eating the rose; the prince’s outburst, and his closeness to the prince is what causes the pilot to ponder this more than anything else. The key message of The Little Prince is that the time and care we invest in someone is what makes them, and everything about them, special.
The little prince and his worries are important to the pilot because he makes the effort to care about the prince. The rose is important to the prince because he makes the effort to care about her. And the lady in this MV is important to our protagonist Ryeowook because he too has made the effort to care about her. This effort is showed in depicting Ryeowook’s return from his journey of self-discovery. In what may be my favourite part of the MV, Ryeowook grabs a roller brush and paints a starry night sky. The stars glint as Ryeowook goes to quench his thirst, only to find his flask filled with sand (a reference to the thirst-stricken pilot stuck in the desert). The absence of water is a sign that his task is not yet complete.
The next step of the journey sees Ryeowook leave Earth — symbolised by the box — and travel through space. He passes the lights-cum-stars before reaching the rose of his story. The woman turns into the rose, becoming the symbol of the story Ryeowook has come to identify with:
The Little Prince told me
That gaining someone’s heart
Is the hardest thing to do, come to me
The Little Prince said to me
It might be sad right now
But we’re never gonna be apart
That you’re going to want to laugh with me
I like to think that the two do reconcile, though the ending could be interpreted as Ryeowook being rejected as well.
This MV provides an interesting interpretation of The Little Prince, if you are willing to look for it. Except that, though I did have some fun unravelling the meaning of each action, I know I would not have done any of it had I not signed on to review this MV. I was willing, but not of my own volition. There are other MVs out there full of clues and puzzles to solve that are much more engaging, and drive you to understand every minute detail, than “The Little Prince,” which — while pretty — does not leave much of an impression.
It’s really a shame because The Little Prince has a poetically mysterious quality to it that has failed to translate, largely due to the uninspired recycling of motifs that have been used in other SM MVs (the burning paper, the disappearing woman and Escher stairs), and the good stuff (painting the night sky, journeying into space by breaking the 4th wall) is lost in a montage of blank-faced Ryeowook wandering among trees. The little prince’s exploration in the novella were much more interesting than that.
While the MV succeeds in telling its story, it could have been more engaging by taking out some of the filler and incorporating more of the spirit of the book alongside the narrative.
Song: 3.25 out of 5
MV: 2.75 out of 5
Readers, what did you think of the MV? Do you think Ryeowook reconciled with his rose at the end, or not?