Amber's Reviews > The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
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Aug 20, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: read-adult

** spoiler alert ** My new favourite book of all time?

The film was my favourite movie of all time when I was four or five. Perhaps it still is. My mom used to joke that my brother and I would beg her to let us watch it every day.

I read in Wikipedia that Michael Ende sued the production company that made the film for not staying true enough to the text. While that may be a little unfair, I think I get Ende's point. The film is beautiful, marvelous, and special. And most of it is, save for a few scenes and details, pretty close to Ende's original. The problem for Ende might have been that by ending the film halfway through the book, the producers gave it a completely different message. "Do what you dream!" in the movie is, in the book: "Learn that what you dream is not always what you really want or need", and as a moral tale I think it has more strength. Not because it tells us all to keep our feet on the ground, but because it creates a relationship of equilibrium between reality and fantasy. Neither is more important than the other, and each needs the other to be real and have meaning.

This book is a shining braid of surrealist painting, Borgesian metaphor, and looking-glass fairy tale. I'd like to imagine that Ende, as the son of surrealist painter Edgar Ende, painted the images and scenery in his mind as he wrote it, the story is so sweepingly visual. But it is more than scenery, because it is also a novel about human maturity, about human longing and how it shapes us, and why fantasy is a part of who we are.

Mirrors, labyrinths, gardens, temples... all of the setpieces of Fantastica are not supposed to be exciting because they are exotic, but because, says Bastien, they remind us that there is mystery and wonder in the real world. And the last chapters of the book are devoted to the idea that we can't dream if we've forgotten who we are or what's real, because without memory we have no desire, and without desire we are empty and hollow like Xayide's metal monsters. After each wish that Bastien makes in Fantastica, he forgets his reason, in the real world, for why he made it. The fat little boy forgets he was ever fat, the unloved little boy forgets he ever had parents. It is only when he drinks the Water of Life (of experience, of real living) that he remembers who he is and values himself not for the strength and courage and handsome exterior he has wished for earlier in the book with AURYN (or at the end of the film on Falkor's back!), but for being human and for being Bastien. He acts selfish, arrogant, and thoughtless throughout his journey, but you forgive him because you're watching him grow up.
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Ellery Yes, I think I felt this too while reading it, but could never articulate it...that's why I felt so dissatisfied watching the second film; it felt superfluous to the first: how can the Neverending Story have a sequel? But in the book it is all one flesh, growing and deepening, as the boy Bastien discovers that where there is story, there will always be the threat of Nothing...


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