Thursday, November 19, 2009

The NeverEnding Story

The NeverEnding Story is one of the most depressing films of all time. Yet it is the more so when it tries not to be. And where it reaches for profundity it becomes shallow and desultory. There are many films that are deliberately sad; among them many that can be depressing as a lingering offshoot; lots of them films from the 90's, and of course none of them belonging to the fantasy genre: that genre of the 80's, to which The NeverEnding Story can be counted as one of many unfortunates that further tarnishes it.

Rather, the movie is utterly unique in achieving a virulent hangover through the sheer sincerity of the filmmakers' and writers' drive to make this fantasy world believable (a noble intention), but 'believable' in a way that, straining and overbearing and with nothing to really earn it in the first place, turns this alternate world (Fantasia) into the very pulpit from which they expound the absolute necessity of believing in it. Talk about getting ahead of yourself. And as the flipside to this Very Necessary Belief they pit The Nothing. You must buleeeeeeeeeve! Or else!

"But father, what must I believe in, and why?"

"Well's like...well, uh oh, I think I hear The Nothing coming."

"No! No! I believe! I buleeeeeve!"

"That's a good boy."

I put myself through the painful experience of watching it the other night, and, having grown up in the 80's, obviously not for the first time. I remember as a kid in particular the ending portion of the movie that left me indifferent and empty (not to mention the sinking of Atreyu's white horse in the muck of sadness; a scene that absolutely petrified me with sadness as a kid. The white horse is a biblical symbol of Christ. And later his steed is replaced by a good-luck dragon, also white). Now it is possible to see why: the grubby, self-aware markings of stupid adults who want to really show, nay, tell, nay, dictate to children the importance of believing in their dreams and wishes and their own worth (which they must really, really, really believe, instead of humility and self-abasement, as they pass between the two laser-eye sphinxes with the amazingly anti-gravitational breasts) and how the whole world is completely dependent on their own powers (and they better have one of those talismans of two snakes eating one another; and a good-luck dragon to boot) because it is wholly one-dimensional and is at the mercy of The Nothing if they don't just simply, you know, wish, or something.

Puleeeese Bastian! You must! You must give me a name! Your powers are to be wielded in this world, in other words, as having no place and proportion in the hierarchy of creation as created by the One, not as gifts, but at your own service, having no recourse to any wisdom but your own as it seems these powers are nothing more than your own autonomous will.

Your own autonomous will and a one-dimensional, or two, or three-dimensional world and The Nothing pitted against it all: that this sort of thing has long infested that most pure and rich of genres, Fantasy, is perhaps not surprising, given that we know the Great Plagiarizing Feign always goes after the sanctuary.

There is one effective part in the movie, and that is when Atreyu comes upon the drawings on the stone wall showing some of his lame-ass journey in retrospect, and then (the good part) comes upon the drawing of the wolf's face, snarling. It is quite creepy. The wolf itself is also well done.

I didn't know this film was based on a book. And the theme music at the beginning and end of the film is worse than Abba.


Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

I think I saw all or part of the film as a kid; I can't remember.
All I know is that when I see a snippet on the television, I literally feel a bit off, kinda nauseous--probably supressed memories or something. Pretty weird that I find it repugnant and don't even know why!


Paul Stilwell said...

Yeah, there are things going on in the mind and soul that we are not conscious of, but they determine and inform our choices and feelings. There's a plethora of symbology that we are aware of in reality without being able to really explain it.

Meredith said...

Bryan: Ugh, creepy - me too!!!

I remember something about a bookstore, a waif-like child empress draped in pearls, two freaky laser-eyed guardians... and the weird sadness or nausea of it all. Ohhhh, 80's fantasy movies! "Willow" is another one that left permanent scars. o_o