13/10/2013

Article 100: The Neverending Story (1984)

Film: The Neverending Story
Release: 1984, Theatrical
Starring: Barret Oliver, Noah Hathaway, Thomas Hill
Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen
Next in the series: The Neverending Story II
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: The daydreamer Bastian is a troubled child, hounded by bullies he flees into a bookstore and makes a life changing choice

Hans' thoughts:

When I had to choose what to make Article 100, I was split between choosing the greatest movie ever or something that's special to me alone, both of which would've been articles I've already written. 

So I chose to go with a definite in-house favorite of both of us, The Neverending Story. To date, perhaps one of the greatest children's fantasies ever put to film. So what is the movie about? A young boy is living alone with his father after his mother's death, this was apparently recently as they both had trouble moving on afterwards, the father trying reluctantly to keep his son grounded in reality, even though he seems supportive enough. We quickly get established that Bastian is a daydreamer with his head in the clouds, he doesn't really think his decisions through and would rather spend his day reading or drawing - using his imagination as escapism. 

The movies theme however is about using escapism for the right reasons, during the movie Bastian overcomes his fears again and again to follow the tale of Atreyu on his quest to save the mythical kingdom of Fantasia. It deals with having the correct balance between imagination and reality, dealing with reality without forgetting the magical expanse of one's imagination. Not losing hope despite hardships, in other words.

On the technical side, most of the movie is done with practical effects, some of the weirder and more outlandish creatures being puppets. While the eerie atmosphere of the movie certainly helps to enforce the reality of the creatures, one can't help but notice the slight problems with lip syncing. this is especially apparent with the luckdragon Falcor who barely has any lip-movements, making him feel way too much like a puppet. It's not too bad however, you quickly accept the look of his character and your suspension of disbelief will have taken over well before he actually shows up in the movie anyway.

This is in my opinion largely due to the score and cinematography of the movie, the first shot of the Ivory tower early on in the movie never fails to give me chills. This is because of the otherworldliness of the synthetic music combined with the grandeur of the look of the actual Ivory tower, we have several slow panning shots of the tower, starting with a full total, then a few shots circling upwards from the bottom before giving us a birdseye view of the outdoor throneroom, filled with imaginative creatures of all shapes and sizes. The music in this movie was as I mentioned mostly done technologically, this was a growing trend at the time but what makes it work in this movie is that the story is supposed to take place in the world of fantasy, making the unnatural instruments fit the theme. It may not have been taking into consideration at the time, but it definitely works. 

While The Neverending Story has a very simple story and a theme that one has seen again and again, this is just awe-inspiring in the way that everything just kind of works, from the heartwarming moments with the friendly characters to the absolute sense of dread that comes with the main villain of "The Nothing". Indeed, making the evil our heroes fight against into the mere concept of everything disappearing leaving nothing in it's wake is just creepy to a whole different level than a visible being, it's a high concept and in a way, very Lovecraftian like the being Cthulhu, waiting in the depths of the oceans, sleeping in a death-like state till the stars align and he will consume all, no hope even for the believers. Leaving NOTHING behind. That's a pretty abstract creature for a child to comprehend, and I applaud both the original author of the book and the creators of the movie for taking a chance with giving us a villain without an actual face. The more visible villain stating "I was sent by the power behind The Nothing" only allows our Id's to scare us even more.
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