Friday, June 1, 2012

The Neverending Story

I've said it once and I'll say it again: I live with my head in the clouds.
I'm a big dreamer and have always had a very active imagination. To me what's the point of living a life with no dreams or hopes?
The other day I was watching one of my favorite childhood flashback movies "The Neverending Story".
It's 80's, it's a nostalgia trip, the protagonist is a little boy who prefers to spend his school day avoiding his classmates while hiding in the attic and reading a fantasy novel. A main character I could relate to, that's for sure.
So anyways I decided to pop it in and watch it for lack of anything else to do. It's odd to watch a movie as an adult that you watched so much as a kid... you notice a lot of things that seemed like they were never there before. As a 24 year old "adult", I found this movie littered with a lot deeper meanings than I had ever recalled. I've made a list of all the pieces of this movie that struck me as interesting. If you aren't an 80's/early 90's child and you for some reason haven't see this, there will be some nearly 30 year old spoilers included. Sorry Charlie:

1.)To start off with, the villain of this story is the so called "Great Nothing". It is literally just that; nothing. Can you imagine trying to convey this on screen especially during the 80's before CGI? It's a very abstract enemy to convey in a children's movie. As soon as we are shown Fantasia for the first time, we are told that basically the Great Nothing is destroying everything in this world. So what is it? Why is it destroying everything? Most villains have a reason for doing what they do, even if it's insanity.
We find out later in the movie when Atreyu(the boy warrior) confronts the super creepy "servant of the great nothing". (Let me inject this really quick and say that this wolf puppet or whatever it is, is way scarier than anything computer generated.)
Anyways Atreyu and the G'mork have a conversation that I will quote:

G'mork: "If you come any closer, I will rip you to shreds."
Atreyu: "Who are you?"
G'mork: "I am G'mork. And you, whoever you are, can have the honor of being my last victim."
Atreyu: "I will not die easily. I am a warrior!"
G'mork: "Ha! Brave warrior, then fight the Nothing."
Atreyu: "But I can't! I can't get beyond the boundaries of Fantasia!"
[G'mork laughs and Atreyu gets a little angry]
Atreyu: "What's so funny about that?"
G'mork: "Fantasia has no boundaries."
Atreyu: "That's not true! You're lying."
G'mork: "Foolish boy. Don't you know anything about Fantasia? It's the world of human fantasy. Every part, every creature of it, is a piece of the dreams and hopes of mankind. Therefore, it has no boundaries."
Atreyu: "But why is Fantasia dying, then? "
G'mork: "Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So the Nothing grows stronger."
Atreyu: What is the Nothing?
G'mork: "It's the emptiness that's left. It's like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it."
Atreyu: "But why?"
G'mork: "Because people who have no hopes are easy to control; and whoever has the control... has the power!"

Wow! To think this is what my mom used to rent us from blockbuster on Saturday nights when I was in elementary school, hah.
I find this whole scene pretty fascinating though and every true. "With no vision my people parish", or in other words when "people begin to lose their hopes and forget their dreams" despair grows and they are "easy to control; and whoever has the control has the power!"
I really believe this is a big problem in today's society. In fact I could write a whole series of blog entries on just that one subject, but this isn't the place for that.
I think the "Great Nothing" is one of the scariest villains I've ever heard of though for these exact reasons.

Now for the obstacles Atreyu has to face in order to complete his quest.

1.)One of the first things he has to do is make it through the Deadly Swamp of Sadness. This is a really fantastic metaphor for depression in my opinion. It is a fact, that you can literally put yourself in the grave if you let sadness or depression overwhelm you. This is also a much scarier and more realistic obstacle to have to face in a children's fantasy movie. There are no monsters or anything shown in the swamp, you just have to press on through an overwhelming feeling of sadness in order to conquer it. Atreyu's horse doesn't make it, making for one sad, sad scene that's for sure.

2.)Next after he is saved by Falcor the Luck Dragon(a.k.a what looks like a flying poodle) he is taken to the next stage of his quest which we are told is 10,000 miles away from where he was when he passed out in the swamp and was nearly killed by the G'mork. He has to pass through two golden Sphinxes next which sounds simple enough right? Simple enough until we see a knight pass through them and get cooked to a crisp by lasers shooting out of their eyes... yep. Atreyu is told that The Sphinxes eyes stay closed, "until someone who does not feel his own worth tries to pass by". So his chance of life or death is solely based on his OWN opinion of himself?! Can you imagine how many of us wouldn't make it due to low self-esteem and no confidence? I want to try and remember this scene in my everyday life anytime I feel completely unworthy... because you're own feelings about yourself really do determine your life. Talk about life lessons at an early age. Anyone who is truly successful in there life and fulfills their purpose(and if you were BORN you are here for a reason and have a purpose f.y.i), does so because they believe they have the abilities to do so.

3.)Atreyu's third obstacle is that he has to face the Magic Mirror Gate. To lift lines straight from the movie it is explained this way:
Engywook: "Next is the Magic Mirror Gate. Atreyu has to face his true self."
Falcor: "So what? That won't be too hard for him."
Engywook: "Oh, that's what everyone thinks! But kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men discover that they are really cowards! Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming!"

Noticing a pattern with all the obstacles and not to mention villains of this movie? They are all psychological. Atreyu is picked as a child warrior rather than picking a large burly grown man, because he has "faith like a child". As I'm writing this entire analysis, I'm coming to the conclusion that this whole movie is also a great allegory for overcoming severe depression. This is (literally) reflected further when Atreyu looks in the magic mirror and sees Sebastian, the little boy reading the book in the attic instead of attending school. We are shown at the beginning of the movie that Sebastian is a dreamer, his teachers get onto him for drawing unicorns during class, and his father gets on to him for always having his feet off the ground. His father says something along the lines of how he's sorry that his mother had passed away but Sebastian "has got to stop daydreaming". Okay I'll avoid a big long thing on what an awful thing that is for a parent to say, and skip to the fact that obviously Sebastian is battling depression due to the early death of his mother. It would also seem that he is on the artistic, melancholy side of personalities anyways which makes it tougher. Atreyu represents himself in his imagination and Fantasia is his world of imagination. Fantasia is dying because he has begun to lose hope and has also been told to stop daydreaming by his insensitive father.
Just in writing this I'm seeing that this movie is deeper than I even originally thought it was.. or so it would seem to an over contemplative person like myself.

After this Atreyu manages to make it through the Southern Oracle. The Southern Oracle tells him that in order to stop the Great Nothing, all he has to do is get in touch with and Earthling child, beyond the borders of Fantasia.
He is taken by the Luck Dragon over the aptly named Sea of Possibilities, but he slips off Falcors back and falls into the sea. Not long after he reaches the shore, he has his show down with the G'mork that I mentioned earlier. Atreyu kills him with one swift stab and is again picked up by his super lucky Luck Dragon to search for the Empress in the Ivory Tower.
It turns out the Ivory Tower is one of the only places left standing in Fantasia, and Atreyu has accepted that he now has to go tell the empress that he has failed his quest. He walks in and tells her in tears that he has failed; He was not able to reach an Earthling child in time to save their world. The Empress smiles and says that he has not failed his quest at all but he accomplished everything he was supposed to do. Atreyu of course wants to know why he had to go through all this turmoil including losing his beloved horse:
The Childlike Empress: "It was the only way to get in touch with an earthling."
Atreyu: "But I didn't get in touch with an earthling!"
The Childlike Empress: "Yes, you did. He has suffered with you. He went through everything you went through; and now, he has come here with you. He is very close... listening to every word, we say."
[as he is reading, Bastian can't believe it]
Bastian: "*What*?"

Bastian can't believe what he is reading, or that these fantasy characters could be referring to him.
The Empress states that all they have to do is wait for him to arrive:
Atreyu: "What will happen if he doesn't appear?"
The Childlike Empress: [sadly] "Then our world will disappear - and so will I."
Atreyu: "How could he let that happen?"
The Childlike Empress: "He doesn't understand that he's the one who has the power to stop it. He simply can't imagine that one little boy could be that important."
Bastian: "Is it really me?"
Atreyu: "Maybe he doesn't know what he has to do!"
Bastian: [shouts] "What DO I have to do?"
The Childlike Empress: "He has to give me a new name. He's already chosen it. He just has to call it out"

I find it interesting too that he has to rename the Empress. It almost seems like a way of conveying a new way of thinking or maybe renewed hope since this entire universe operates in his own mind.
At this particular part of the movie, the Empress looks directly at the screen and says:
The Childlike Empress: "Bastian. Why don't you do what you dream, Bastian?"
Bastian: "But I can't, I have to keep my feet on the ground!"
The Childlike Empress: "Call my name. Bastian, please! Save us!"
Bastian: "All right! I'll do it! I'll save you! I will do what I dream!"
So Bastian screams a new name out of the window of the attic and everything becomes very quiet and dark.
Bastian: "Why is it so dark?"
The Childlike Empress: "In the beginning, it is always dark."
Bastian is now informed that he can renew Fantasia even though that world as he knew it has been consumed. All he has to do is dream and the bigger his dreams are the better Fantasia will become.
I love the idea of this because I really believe this is the case with life. If someone chooses to dream big dreams and dares to have big hopes, the more fantastic their life is going to be.
Obviously, I learn a lot from a 1980's children's movie, right:).
I might do another analysis like this on more movies soon because I enjoyed writing this one... it was very enlightening.


  1. You should make this a sermon

    1. It basically is a sermon! I preached it to myself so I wouldn't be depressed