I recently re-watched The NeverEnding Story. Wow did it bring back memories.
The large mysterious turtle. The huge white dog that can fly. The rock eater. The other odd creatures. The tension between the real world and the imaginary. The line between our capacity to imagine and manifest those internal experiences into external realities.
The movie came out in 1984 and I would have been around 5 years old. I’m not sure that I saw the movie when it first came out, but I certainly remember being young when I saw it. I remember feeling a connection to the character “Bastian” (played by Barret Oliver). He is the type of kid that gets so wrapped up in his inner imaginary world that all else just fades away into the back. Bastian goes through a lot of emotion and challenges in his journey from the beginning of the movie to the end, but he learns to overcome and triumph.
In the movie Bastian stumbles into a used bookstore to avoid bullies. This must have got stored deep in my memory because to this day I view used bookstores as magical places. The bookstore owner intrigues the young boy a book called “The NeverEnding Story.” I realized later that the book is an actual book written by Michael Ende.
As Bastian reads the book the experiences of the journey Atreyu (played by Noah Hathaway) go from merely being on the page and turning into an experience where Bastian has to get involved or everything will come to pieces. Atreyu has to go on a hard journey to find out what will save the Queen from a devastating force that is eating away their magical world. Each step gets harder as her faces specific and distinct challenges.
The journey of Atreyu reminded me of Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Atreyu has to go through stages in his journey where he has to face himself and his limitations as well as his own inner world. He also has to face the raw realities that the outer world present and actively try to dissuade him from his goal. Hero stories have this struggle to triumph. Campbell talks about the psychology of this journey and it’s connection to myth and history. It is a theme that moves us as humans.
The heart of the issue in the NeverEnding Story is the human capacity to imagine. It is being diminished and this is what is causing the magical world in the NeverEnding Story to be destroyed. Bastian can help but he must believe and engage his imagination in a way that he hasn’t in his entire life. As a result, what was once destroyed gets restored and the world is brought back to life.
The film was produced by Bernd Eichinger and Dieter Giessler and the film was directed and co-written by Wolfgang Peterson.
It’s a fascinating film and immediately brought me back to when I was a child.