WHEN: 12:22 pm EST, May 25th, 2013
WHERE: The living room of my apartment in Portland
FORMAT: DVD on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV, subtitles on
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Eating lunch and prepared to stay awake and attentive, since I have to read this entire movie. The equation “food plus The NeverEnding Story” frequently equals “nap-time.”
This week I watched The NeverEnding Story with subtitles on DVD, then I cross-checked some key scenes against the Blu-ray. I have The NeverEnding Story pretty much memorized at this point. I estimate that I could recite about 75-80% of the movie accurately if put on the spot. But maybe I’m missing some essential details of dialogue. Perhaps there are some hidden meanings I’ve missed. After watching the subtitles, the answer is: no. There’s nothing hugely significant that I’ve missed in all my viewings. I did, however, encounter the dreaded confusion over name spellings and capitalizations. This is an issue that has plagued The NeverEnding Story since there are so many versions of character names. You can’t even trust the internet on this.
The whole internet according to the internet.
I did learn some things, though. Like how much actors like to change a script. What the subtitles appear to be on-screen are not always what the actors are saying. In the case of The NeverEnding Story, it’s for the better. I’m not sure how each film chooses how it makes its subtitles, but The NeverEnding Story subtitles read like a script. The actors add personality by changing words, reordering the sentence structure, using “um” and stutters, and generally making everything more like actual dialogue between people. Obviously anything a puppet says is exactly in line with the script. Though the mouth movement is poor enough that I don’t think most children would notice any slip-ups.
Perhaps the best line I’ve missed despite all my viewings is one that Urgl says. She shoves Engywook out of her chair and says, “Get back to your own corner, Engy.” Engy! She calls him “Engy.” It warms my heart every time I think about it. After centuries of co-habitation, Urgl still has a cute little nickname for Engywook. It’s the equivalent of “honey,” “sweetie,” or “sugar tits.” That one little piece of dialogue adds so much more to their little spats. It’s true love, people.
A blind love, one might say.
Another interesting thing I noticed is that the Empress is never called the Childlike Empress. Ever. She’s listed with that name in the credits, but otherwise, nothing. She is always referred to as the Empress, even in the Blu-Ray subtitles, which identify the dialogue of any characters off-screen. That means that when The NeverEnding Story was first released, the Childlike Empress was a plot twist. Audiences were building up their own images of what this powerful but dying empress could possibly look like, when, surprise, she’s a little girl. Or a least she’s in the body of a little girl, hence Childlike. I am now going to try to hide that little spoiler for people who have never seen the film. It’s a great surprise in a climax that’s full of twists.
There are some differences between the DVD and Blu-Ray subtitles. The DVD ones, despite being in a package with more special features, are pretty lame. They don’t even tell you who’s speaking off-screen or give any sound effects. The Blu-Ray provides some clues to what’s going on by showing the sounds like [RUMBLES] or [BELCHES]. These are important things! There are, however, some discrepancies in character names.
Look, The Neverending Story was originally published in German, then translated into English, then made into an English-speaking film by a German crew. There are going to be some things messed up in all the translations. I’ve tried to stay as accurate and consistent as possible, so if there are discrepancies, I blame Germany and the internet. Mostly the internet. For example, on the internet, you will find that Falkor is spelled just as many times with a “C” as with a “K.” In German, he’s Fuchur. The credits, the book, and the subtitles all agree on the K for us English-speakers. Atreyu is pretty much “Atreyu” unless you’re German. My soundtrack spells his name “Atreju,” which is the spelling in the German version of the book. But this is America, so it’s spelled with a “Y.”
The Village People back me up on this.
Oh, Rockbiter, you’re a pain to deal with. You see, he could be Rock Biter or Rockbiter. I prefer one word since the Germans tend to smush lots of words together to form one super-word. He’s not listed in the credits and the subtitles break it into two words, but fuck ‘em. The same goes for Falkor being a luckdragon or a luck dragon. The subtitles break it into two words, but, again, fuck ‘em. A lot of people want Mr. Koreander to be Mr. Coreander. This is because nobody in the United States appreciates the initials of someone named Karl Konrad Koreander.
“Did you hear what the Koreander’s named their baby? Total suck-ups, if you ask me.”
But the Ks stay, people. It’s okay to accept that his parents weren’t thinking clearly. And there’s more. For example, G’mork is never listed in the movie credits, plus the DVD and Blu-Ray subtitles disagree on whether his name has an apostrophe in it. I like the apostrophe. It adds to the fantasy element of names that don’t really make sense. Besides, it sounds like you’re swallowing in fear as you say his name. Everything else is pretty much the same. The movie does make it pretty clear that the world is Fantasia despite being “Fantastica” in the English novel version and “Phantasien” in the original German.
Well, good thing we got all that sorted out, right? Thanks, subtitles, for giving more anxiety about my nerd microcosm. Just when I thought I had everything figured out, the subtitles make me want to strangle the people in charge of The NeverEnding Story‘s home movie distribution. Knowing how to spell character names and their occupations/species seems like something important. I feel like I’m getting gypped yet again. Good thing I only have six more months to stew in my own contentiousness.