WHEN: 10:09 am EST, September 21st, 2013
WHERE: The living room of my apartment in Portland
FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: It’s gray day outside and I’m just trying to fill some time.
The NeverEnding Story gets meta. Like way more meta than a children’s film should ever get. The layers of the film, the book in the film, and the story in the book in the film were really messing with my brain during this viewing. I began to wonder what other levels of meta could possibly exist in the film’s universe.
Eventually, it stares back.
In an effort to keep things from getting too confusing before we dive into this topic, let’s review the meta we see in the film. At the climax, the Childlike Empress reveals that Fantasia is aware of its existence as the world of human fantasy. Then she makes it clear to Bastian that, no, really, it’s him they need and he had better hurry up with the whole saving the world thing. Being sucked into a book is not an uncommon trope, but there’s another level of meta to contend with. The Empress also reveals that Bastian is just another character in a story that others are experiencing. It’s breaking the fourth wall with a side of existential crisis.
Or just mild confusion, if you’re Bastian.
Now that your mind is totally blown, imagine the infinite levels of meta that grow out of this movie. It’s staggering and may require some counseling to accept. I know it’s called The Neverending Story, but that’s just what it is. I’ve tried to figure out the rules of the book before, but trying to wrap my brain around unending tales is proving more difficult. If it follows that we are watching Bastian, who is reading about Fantasia, then where does the rabbit hole end? There could be a Fantasian equivalent to Bastian who is also reading a story about a world that he must save. Or I could be starring in my own story that somebody is reading. So, someone could be reading about me watching a film about a boy reading a book about a Fantasian reading a book.
Bastian’s mind is blown, folks.
Earth could be the Fantasia for another consciousness. We may only exist because somebody else believes we do. And those beings might only exist because another entity imagines them, too. And so on. Forever. Into infinity. Et cetera. We are just a product of an imagined imagination. We are the playthings of another world, completely blind to the true nature of our existence.
Sounds more like the cute ending to some sort of sci-fi adventure buddy comedy.
Remember, the imagination infinity moves both ways. There are Fantasians creating another world with their hopes and dreams. That world is also peopled with beings who could imagine another world as well. What kind of creatures would a Fantasian dream up? And what beings dreamed about humans? Fantasia has a symbiotic relationship with humans. We dream and imagine so that they can exist and they provide a source of happiness and hope for us. Perhaps each link works this way and there is a chain of hopes and dreams linking infinite worlds together.
Loggins and Messina know all about this “chain of love.”
The NeverEnding Story continues to make my brain hurt with all the meta. Being part of some sort of Russian nesting doll universe is too much to handle from a children’s movie. It’s fantastic that the film makes me seek the truth behind reality and entices me to ponder how many layers there might be. I just never expected to be questioning the nature of my own existence while watching a movie that has a talking dragon.