James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy is a classic book of our time, detailing how we as individuals and a society need to grow. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the film.
It closely follows the novel as the protagonist, here named John (Matthew Settle), encounters a series of synchronicities and characters who help him learn about the first eight insights of the Celestine manuscript, which depict a better way of living, while searching for the hidden ninth part. Throughout, forces within the Peruvian government and Catholic Church peruse and persecute the group and try to destroy the manuscript, afraid it will leech them of their authority.
While the book was insightful and well paced, the film suffers from trying to force too much information at the audience as the narrative progresses. While the novel’s synchronicities feel natural, in the film they mostly feel forced, as John rushes from insight to insight, with little breathing space for the audience to reflect on the information. So much of the film is expository and it comes across as overwhelming.
It doesn’t help that Settle’s depiction of John is, at times, wooden and unbelievable as he trusts most of the information without question. However, Thomas Kretschman gives a fantastically enthusiastic portrayal of Will, and the rest of the cast, for the most part, do the best they can with the material. Yet, in many cases it comes across as unbelievable and too convenient.
Fortunately, at the heart of the film is the same pertinent spiritual message as the book. While I encourage faithful novel adaptations, here the adherence to the book’s material works against it. Had the filmmakers spent more time developing the characters and their relationships, spaced out the insights, and slowed the pace down, it would have been as good as the novel. As it is, however, the film comes across as below average.