This film tells of the intriguing life of Jules Verne (1828-1905), from his early days of being beaten by his father to rejecting his family’s approach to religion and entering into a world of magic and secret societies.

Philip Gardiner observes that Verne’s novels are in large part allegorical. With the help of the influential French publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel, Verne’s literary output not only predicts some of the realities of 20th and 21st century life but, perhaps more importantly, depicts the inner journey of the archetypal hero.

The idea of the hero’s symbolic death and resurrection is familiar today. The hero motif has been influential in literature and literary criticism and roundly discussed by the likes of Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, Otto Rank and Lord Raglan (4th Baron), among many others.

However, Gardiner maintains that the complex social and religious backdrop to Verne’s era necessitated secrecy and symbolism when Verne was alluding to the heroic and essentially alchemical quest for immortality.

And when you think about it, Verne’s novels fit perfectly within a Jungian or Campbellian framework. From Journey to the Centre of the Earth to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, it’s not too difficult to see these fictional works as portraying an underworld journey into the unusual forces that alternately endanger or enhance awareness of the essential self.

This well-researched DVD doesn’t require familiarity with Verne’s novels. And those interested in 19th-century European history and the confluence of wisdom, literature and science should find it extremely worthwhile.

–MC