Reflections on The NeverEnding Story
1984. I was 9-years-old, sitting in a dark Michigan theater with my dad and a bag of Twizzlers, and before me on the screen was a story that would begin to speak to me...and literally never end.
As a young boy who was not only obsessed with what the '80s brought to the world for fantasy cinema (stuff like The Dark Crystal, E.T and Ghostbusters), but also loved to read books and write my own stories, this strange German production of The NeverEnding Story touched a nerve with me like many others I know who grew up with it.
Exactly one year later, my family bought our first VCR and this was one of the first movies we "recorded" off ShowTime on cable TV. (On the same video cassette were The Muppets Take Manhattan and The Last Starfighter.) To this day I vividly remember laying on my stomach on the carpet of our family cottage in the woods "up north" in Michigan, and re-watching those opening scenes of the Rock Biter in the Howling Forest with its brooding musical score as he spoke about The Nothing. Meanwhile, a thunderstorm literally began brewing outside and a warm summer breeze rolled in through the screen door.
Sitting in my dark apartment, I went through a few chapters each night. The first half of the book played out almost exactly the same as the movie, but the biggest revelation came when it actually revealed what Bastian screamed out the window as his new name for the Empress. (Remember in those days when we didn't have the Internet to tell us anything, and our deep conversation at recess was 'what does he yell in that scene?' Even the closed-captioning on the TV didn't know....it just said [SCREAMING]. In case you are still wondering, in the book it's "Moon Child," and if you watch that scene again, that's pretty much what it sounds like.)
But the second half of the book, this was more of a complete surprise to me. Here in those pages were Bastian's "many other amazing adventures" which the movie's bizarre closing voice-over told about. With no cinematic imagery to compare them to, here were images of beautiful forests and deserts, tragic battles and betrayals, a lost city, a warm house and a life-giving fountain.
But as the book repeats several times throughout its pages, that is another story and shall be told another time.