WHEN: 7:00 am EST, November 28th, 2013
WHERE: The living room of my apartment in Portland
FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Eating breakfast. Still regretting that I didn’t watch this last night to relieve the depression of watching Die Konsequenz and Das Boot.
I’ve only just started my Wolfgang Bang and I am both impressed and depressed. Die Konsequenz and Das Boot were fantastic films to watch. Each had important social commentary conveyed through the personal stories of average people. The NeverEnding Story seems like a rather jolting change in Petersen’s filmography.
The NeverEnding Story is in color, for one.
There are some similarities between the three movies. They are all adaptations of novels and Petersen wrote or contributed to the screenplays. Petersen had his hands all over the productions, so we can assume that the stories, themes, and characters are close to Petersen’s filmmaking heart. The three movies are also very German-centric. Even though The NeverEnding Story is in English, the picture was filmed in Germany with a German crew and based on a much-loved German book by Michael Ende.
Since Das Boot was such a hit, maybe Petersen wanted the opportunity to show that he could produce a more hopeful and universal film. The NeverEnding Story certainly shares themes of loss and pointless destruction with Die Konsequenz and Das Boot, but focuses on the actual attainment of dreams rather than their casualty.
Das Boot goes to some dark places.
Watching The NeverEnding Story after viewing two of Petersen’s earlier films highlighted its hopefulness and escapism. Our world can be a dispiriting place to live, but there are ways to deal with the bleak nature of life. Bastian finds hope in books. He can become whoever he wants and have grand adventures. He doesn’t need to be a weakling when he can become the hero and he can find solace after his mother’s death in the pages of a book quicker than in his own father. Bastian could succumb to the influence of the Nothing like many others, but he manages to find the strength to do what he dreams and let his imagination be the beacon of hope for Fantasia and himself.
The NeverEnding Story doesn’t try to hide the doleful occurrences in life. Bastian is bullied, his father is emotionally detached, his mother died, and he’s a sad little boy without any friends. Even Fantasia has its own tragedies: Artax drowns, the Nothing is growing stronger, G’mork is pursuing Atreyu, and the chance that Atreyu can find a human child looks dim. When things look their worst for Atreyu, the Ivory Tower appears and gives him hope. The NeverEnding Story is a tale about rebirth from destruction. In the ordinary world we often must face dark times in order to recognize and celebrate the good. Bastian is at a low point in his life, but out of his loneliness he is able to find a small bit of hope and make it grow into happiness.
And snag himself infinite wishes.
After seeing Petersen balance the harshness of reality and the hopefulness of imagination in The NeverEnding Story, I feel encouraged to see more of his work. Will he continue with themes of hopes and dreams? Will the world always be unforgiving? And will his characters still be heroic, yet fallible? Frankly, I need some more happy endings if I’m going to make it through.
[Came over from Wolfgang Bang? Click here to return to Part 1.]