The first rule of magic: don't let anyone know your name. Names have power.
Neil Gaiman, The Books of Magic
People usually say: “Before, the trees were taller, and the grass was greener.” Indeed, from a child's perspective, everything seemed new and significant. Long roads, long hours. But time changes distances. Things that once delighted us seem silly and unimportant today. Favorite toys are lying in the attic, former friends remained only in photographs, and from old fairy tales, only the "once upon a time" is kept in memory.
I'd like to remind you of one of the fairy tales for which it is worth going back to childhood - The NeverEnding Story by Wolfgang Petersen. A film for which even such a high-profile definition as “immortal classic” is not enough.
Nothing comes from nothing
Everyone knows that childhood is a time of miracles. But not everyone remembers why. Few people can, like children, see the fabulous in the midst of the ordinary. Monsters can live in a dark closet, Santa regularly brings gifts, and a plastic transformer model comes to life in your hands to continue his on-screen adventures.
But to connect all the elements of children's fantasy and build a kind of magical country can only be the one from whom the real world has completely turned away. For example, ten-year-old Balthasar Bastian Bux, who lost his mother early and is brought up by a strict father. The boy daydreams and his father does not like it very much - after all, the child must grow up and adapt to this cruel world. The father does not understand that it is the fantasies that help the son cope with the loss of his mother and gradually get on his feet.
The ability to see an elf behind every tree makes Bastian an outcast among his peers. One day, which would be simply dishonest to call "a nice", the boy went to school, but on the way, he ran into three hooligans. The latter, without thinking twice, put the dreamy poor kid into a dumpster, and when he got out, they began to chase him - so that Bastian was forced to hide from bullies in a bookstore.
There he saw Mr. Coreander reading a book called The NeverEnding Story. The librarian refuses to give it to the boy on the pretext that "the book is dangerous". But the man is distracted by a phone call, and Bastian "borrows" the book, leaving a note promising to return it. He was already late for school (especially since there is an exam in mathematics in the class, which Bastian doesn’t want to go to at all). He makes a Solomonic decision and goes to the attic to read a mysterious book, completely unaware of where this will lead.
It tells about the magical land of Fantasy, which is threatened by the evil force "The Nothing", erasing things from fairy-tale reality. An initiative group of Teeny Weeny with his snail hound, Night Hob with his hang-glider bat, and the giant Rockbiter go to The Childlike Empress in the Ivory Tower for help. However, the girl cannot save the magical world: she is mortally ill.
Like any fairy tale, Fantasy is a product of the human imagination. In this regard, the magical land has no borders. And The Nothing is disbelief, boredom, and apathy, killing a fairy tale. To fight it, the Empress summons young Atreyu from a tribe of hunters. He will have to cross the Swamps of Sadness in search of the wise turtle Morla, meet the dog-headed dragon of luck Falkor, and grapple with the evil creature G'mork.
End of story
The German writer Michael Ende (1929-1995) published The NeverEnding Story in 1979. In terms of popularity, this book and its author could be compared with Rowling's "Potterian". It is not surprising that a film adaptation arrived very soon.
The film is based on the first half of the book. The rest went to the sequel (less successful), and the third part, released in 1994, was generally made only based on the book. The structure of the plot is simple - the usual quest of a young warrior called to save the world from amorphous evil. Something like Conan, but with funny animals and no blood.
The difference is that this story has a second level, which makes it truly endless. The book lives its own life - Bastian reads about the adventures of Atreyu and gradually realizes that they are much more real than the landscape outside the window. The Neverending Story characters know about the existence of the real world and even about Bastian. The most inveterate skeptic will believe in a dream if the heroes of the books address him by name and beg to save their world.
We read (or watch) Bastian's story. Someone in another world may be reading about us, which means that perhaps the series of stories packed into each other in the manner of nesting dolls will never end. The incredible story will go on forever. It's just a matter of faith. Never since the days of the Broadway Peter Pan (where the audience was asked to save the Tinker Bell fairy by believing in her), the effect of "a story within a story" was not realized so vividly.
And it's easy to believe in Petersen's magic because The NeverEnding Story is one of the most spectacular fantasy films of its decade. Decades when the lion's share of computer time in studios was spent on starships and lasers whizzing through space. Here, the decorators were able to create a completely unique fairy-tale world that you will not see in any other film.
But there are some borrowings in the movie, of course. Some of it is obviously taken from Alice in Wonderland - for example, the snail with the rider, and the furry dog-headed dragon could be inspired by some characters from the Muppet Show.
Filming took place primarily in West Germany. Only scenes with Bastian "in reality" had to work in Canada. The scenery was erected at the largest film studio in Europe - Bavaria Film Studios on the outskirts of Munich. This year, by the way, she turns 90 years old. During this time, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Bergman, and the Monty Python troupe managed to work here, and Petersen shot his first science fiction film, Enemy Mine.
The NeverEnding Story turned out to be very European - in general, the cast of the film crew was made up of Germans, English and American specialists were attached to help. The soundtrack was also made in Germany by Klaus Doldinger of the Passport jazz band. For release in the US, a bit of synthpop was added to the music, so the original sound of the film will never be heard again.
Critics greeted the film kindly, but at the box office it can be considered a failure - it collected only 20 million dollars on a budget of 27. For comparison, Gilliam's Time Bandits (1981) earned forty-two million, and The Dark Crystal (1982) - over forty. However, the unfortunate trouble with the profits was soon eliminated, because the release of The NeverEnding Story on video became one of the best-selling in the history of fantasy cinema.
There is no surprise, it was a kind of Harry Potter of the 80s. The movie came out just as good as the book. Despite the simplicity of the story (note that for most of the plot, Atreyu just wanders around Fantasia, studying it), the attention of restless children is riveted by mind-blowing puppets and already outdated "combined shootings" at that time. In the meantime, the young spectator blinks his eyes, and such concepts as “faith” and “good” are explained to him in simple and correct words.
The fate of the leading actors took them far away from the cinema. Barret Oliver never became an actor, preferring to take up photography. Noah Hathaway now teaches hand-to-hand combat to airline crews and rides a motorcycle. Tami Stronach devoted her life to dancing.
But The NeverEnding Story will never get old because of the skill it is told. The boy sits in the attic and, with bated breath, flips through the pages of a book. The story doesn't just develop, it depends on his imagination.