I recently re-watched Wolfgang Petersen’s epic fantasy The NeverEnding Story, a bizarre and wonderful film that features prominently in my happy childhood memories. I never read the original novel, but the film is just as fabulous as I remember, despite the atrocious ‘special effects’ that once seemed so wondrous to my tiny infant mind. Modern technology seems to have spoilt my imagination in that regard.
Memories came hurtling back as I watched Falkor flying across the green screen, rescuing Atreyu from the greedy clutches of Gmork and bringing salvation to the Empress and Fantasia! What a whirlwind.
I only remember two things from my younger days:
1) Atreyu was the love of my life and we would be wed come the morn.
2) It was quite important for me to obtain a luckdragon.
Aside from this, it was another lovely escapist film for rainy afternoons along with my other favourites: the old BBC adaptations of Narnia, a Worzel Gummidge video and the animated series of Where’s Wally?
Watching The NeverEnding Story again at the age of 22, when one has been through university and learnt about the dark places in the world, is an eerie experience.
I refer mainly to the idea of ‘the Nothing’, the void of darkness that is slowly consuming Fantasia. When I was small, the essence of the Nothing must have gone straight over my head: it was simply an obstacle to be overcome. I was more interested in the giant turtle and traumatic death of Artax (oh god). To hear that the Nothing is the embodiment of all human apathy, cynicism and the denial of dreams was quite a shocker.
Gmork, the strange werewolf thing that is the bastard child of animatronics, then pipes up with some philosophical gold about what the Nothing represents.
Gmork: Foolish boy. Don’t you know anything about Fantasia? It’s the world of human fantasy. Every part, every creature of it, is a piece of the dreams and hopes of mankind. Therefore, it has no boundaries.
Atreyu: But why is Fantasia dying, then?
Gmork: Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So the Nothing grows stronger.
Atreyu: What is the Nothing?
Gmork: It’s the emptiness that’s left. It’s like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.
Atreyu: But why?
Gmork: Because people who have no hopes are easy to control; and whoever has the control… has the power!
Deep, yes? Gmork has described modern politics in just a few lines!
I might start watching all my childhood favourites again and look for the dark adult themes that are inevitably buried beneath the sparkles. The NeverEnding Story is still superb however, and I recommend that all the 80s/90s kids re-watch it.