A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 200 – The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story – September 16th, 2010

I have an embarrassing confession to make. I have never read through the book this movie is based on. I hate admitting things like this because I pride myself on being a bookworm, even as a child. I don’t know how I missed it. I don’t know why. I loved the movie and I devoured books by the shelfload. We had a wonderful little independent children’s book store near us when I was a kid. How did no one ever hand this to me? How did I not find it myself? I know why I haven’t picked it up as an adult. It’s long. A fast reader I may be, but with as many new books as come into my workplace, I just don’t always have time to pick up something that I know the general gist of already. So I never have. I am duly ashamed and will rectify this forthwith.

Looking at this now, I believe this was my first experience with meta-storytelling. It’s a story about a boy reading a story which then refers back not only to the boy but to the audience watching the boy reading the story. No wonder I’ve got a thing for that sort of stuff now. Hurrah for non-comedic fourth wall breaking! The reader of the story is Bastian, a young boy whose mother has recently passed away and whose father wants him to buck up and get back to real life. Bastian’s a bookworm and daydreamer at heart and as such is a perfect target for bullies. While hiding from them he finds a book. A special book. The Neverending Story, a beautiful book just begging to be read. And so he grabs it and runs, hiding out in the attic of his school building and reading it.

One level in and you have the story Bastian reads. It’s about the world of Fantasia, and the many and varied creatures and people who live there and the lands that make it up. It’s about how Fantasia is being destroyed by the Nothing, a force that wipes out everything it touches. It’s about a quest given to the young warrior, Atreyu, to find a way to cure the mysterious illness that is killing Fantasia’s Empress. And as Atreyu struggles his way through the Swamps of Sadness and meets a Luck Dragon named Falkor, contends with the two magical gates before the Southern Oracle and meets the Nothing’s harbinger, Gmork, Bastian (and us, the audience) is drawn further into the story and thus, the world. Eventually we all become aware of each other as the movie comes to its climax, which is part of the whole draw of it to me as well as being part of the story’s conceit.

Fantasia as a fictional world is one of those concepts that made complete sense in my head. The idea that there was a world out there where everything you imagined came into being if you truly cared about it? That was a wonderful thing to me. I remember, after watching this movie, sitting in my room or the back yard by myself for hours, coming up with people and creatures and places to populate Fantasia with. I’ve always loved the first scene at the Ivory Tower, where many of the peoples of Fantasia have sent representatives to petition the Empress for help against the Nothing. There are some fabulous creature concepts on display there and I wanted to think of something worthy of a place like that. Of course I’d never actually set foot there, but in the movie that’s not the point. The point is that Fantasia isn’t a place to travel to on foot, it’s a place to explore in your mind.

As a child, this movie was to me what the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy is to me as an adult. It is the visual representation of a world I wanted desperately to explore. I tried to watch this with a somewhat critical eye and I can see flaws, certainly. There are bits that show the movie’s age. Some of the conceits of Bastian talking to himself in the school attic come off as overdone. But I find I don’t give a crap. This movie is so heavily nostalgic for me and so full of wonder and the memory of being totally sucked into the world that I can’t bring myself to really critique it. I identify so strongly with this movie. Bastian staying at school after it closes, reading through the night because he just can’t put the book down? That was me. My mother was a teacher through my youth and I spent plenty of time in the school buildings she worked in, wandering the halls after hours, or in June after school was out for the summer. There’s something about an empty school that I can’t describe, but this movie has it and I knew it. And I spent many a night reading until the sun came up.

I often get frustrated with my job. I spend a lot of time doing things like teaching the same person how to do email attachments seven days in a row, or cleaning up after a family ignores the no food rule. But at least once a day someone will come in and want suggestions. Whether it’s a kid who hates to read but has to pick something for a book report, or a kid who loves to read but doesn’t know what to pick up next, it’s always a challenge I dive into. I love finding the perfect book to get a reluctant reader to come in looking for more, or a new favorite for a kid who thought he’d read everything worth reading. I love prompting my storytime kids to go wild, whether we’re making beach collages or writing comic books. I feel like I’ve done my job well when the kids I work with get excited about their imaginations. That, to me, is the core of this movie. That’s why I still love it, flaws and all. And that’s why we picked it for a milestone movie.

And also? Apparently I totally married Bastian. Go me!

September 16, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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