A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Neverending Story

September 16, 2010

The Neverending Story

For our two-hundredth daily review we wanted to watch something magical, wonderful and close to our hearts. I was twelve years old when this movie came out, and I WAS Bastian Balthazar Bux. I was a quite, bookish kid with a love for fantasy and a very seventies bowl-cut do.

Young Andy Bastian Balthazar Bux

Which one is me?

I didn’t draw unicorns in my math notebooks – but maybe if I had any facility with drawing I would have. I did live in the fantasy worlds inside my head, and this movie captured that isolation and loneliness quite well. It also presents a beautiful and intricate fantasy world, which I instantly fell in love with. I remember once that when I was arguing with my sister she taunted me by saying that this was just a movie and there was nothing real about it. I was so enraged that I kicked a hole in the bathroom wall. Because this was and is so much more than a movie to me.

Bastian is a young boy who lives in books. We learn early on in the movie that his mother has recently died and he has little care for anything in our world. He is bullied by a trio of jerks at school. He cares more about unicorns than classwork. One day he is chased into a bookstore by the bullies and he encounters a cantankerous man who specifically forbids him from reading a mysterious book called “The Neverending Story.” This book, says the shopkeep, is not safe like other books. When you’re reading it it isn’t just a book, because you’re actually a part of it. Of course Bastian takes the book and hides in his school attic to read it.

Inside the book is the world of Fantasia. Fantasia is a magical realm filled with magical creatures. We meet a few of them: the Rock Biter, the Night Hob and his stupid bat, and a dapper little fellow with a racing snail. They are going to the heart of Fantasia to ask the Empress for help because a mysterious Nothing is consuming the land. Where once there were beautiful delicious rocks for the Rock Biter now there is… just nothing. Fantasia is being diminished. Unfortunately the Empress cannot help them for she, like her land, is dying. Her only hope is that a warrior boy names Atreyu, who must go on a quest to find a way to cure her and the land.

I didn’t read the book the movie was based on until after I had seen the movie many, many times. There’s a lot of things in the book that are only hinted at in the movie. For example – in the movie we are told that the Nothing that is consuming Fantasia is what happens when the people of our world lose their hopes and dreams. In the book it is more clear that the Nothing is actually what happens when people stop believing in fantasy. That Fantasia is made up of dreams and imaginings, and when people become jaded and dedicate themselves only to pursuits in the “real world” they lose their dreams and it is because of this that Fantasia is in danger. Of course the movie only covers the first half of the book, but that’s fine with me. I’ve avoided seeing all the sequels to this movie that got made over the years, mostly out of a fear that they will lessen the feel of Fantasia by cheapening it.

The book itself is the tool that the people of Fantasia have come up with to fight the Nothing. It encourages people to have dreams and believe in fantasy by having us follow the adventures of Bastian as he follows the adventures of Atreyu. It is implied that this is what is never-ending about The Neverending Story. Just as we share in these characters’ adventures there are others who share in ours, and others beyond them, and so on into infinity. This recursive nature of the work, and the notion of the realms of human fantasy being something that is endangered are heady concepts to introduce to the mind of a twelve year old boy who is already obsessed with fantasy.

I love the world that the film makers created here. It very well captures the spirit of the book, and it’s full of wonderful creatures. There is an absolute ton of amazing puppetry at work here. In particular there are some life-sized animatronic beasts that work alongside the actors, and although the lip sync is not perfect the range of expression and the detail of these puppets is astonishing. Sure the blue-screen effects aren’t up to today’s standards, and things sometimes look kind of plodding in comparison to the computer animated creatures of today, but that’s part of the charm of the movie. Even if these things weren’t real they actually did exist, and teams of artists brought them to life on a movie set once upon a time.

I’d mark this amongst the most influential movies in my childhood. Along with The Dark Crystal, The Empire Strikes Back and Time Bandits. It made me who I am today to some degree. Or maybe it’s that who I was when it came out was so perfectly in sync with the world and mood of the movie. I never want to be one of those people who refuses to believe in fantasy and loses that child-like ability to dream. I will not be part of the jaded populace that was responsible for the Nothing. Someday maybe I’d even like to unleash some of my own fantastic worlds so that other people can believe in them as well. But that’s another story, for another time.

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

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