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“The Neverending story”, not just a movie for kids

The Neverending story”, by the German W. Petersen, was broadcast for the first time in Italian cinemas on 6 December 1984. Belonging to the fantasy genre and inspired by the homonymous book by Michel Ende – even if with some differences – it could be considered just as “a lovely movie for kids”, with plenty of special effects and a thrilling soundtrack. However, it is not only this. This film hugs people of all ages and cultures because it talks wisely of any universal subject, enclosing a surprising metaphorical meaning.

It opens with a dialogue between Bastian, the young main character, and his dad, in which we discover that the two have remained alone after the premature death of Bastian’s mother. While the man tries to go on with his life, his son draws unicorns on Math notebooks and finds refuge in the imagination. “Stop daydreaming and start facing your problems” – this is the advice of Bastian’s dad. On the road to school, Bastian gets away from some bullies hiding himself in a library, where the bookseller explains that the book he is reading, opened on the table, is special and different from any other, which instead are “safe” because they just tell stories. Curious about the book, Bastian takes it and runs away, laying low in the school’s closet. Therefore, it starts Bastian’s and the spectator’s journey in the Reign of Fantasia, populated by fairies, elves, wizards, luck dragons and any other fantastic creature you can imagine.

The first character we see is a gigantic anthropomorphic rock telling two small wizards that, in the Fantasia territory in which he lives, every single thing is disappearing: there are no more rocks nor lakes, but just “the Nothing” that, looking like a strong wind, destroys everything it meets. Conscious of the Nothing’s dangerousness, the three go to the Ivory Tower to ask for help from the Childlike Empress, who is terribly ill and who asks the young warrior Atreyu to deal with the Nothing and to save them.

During the continuous switch between “fantasy” and “reality”, we can see how surprised and afraid Bastian is, when thinking about a warrior of his own age who has to face against the Nothing alone, with no weapons and probably no chance of success. In fact, Atreyu will be going to overcome many difficult challenges, impossible to pass without willpower, bravery, self-confidence and kind-heartedness; if he has not all these qualities, he will fail or die. During one of the numerous turns of events, the book shocks Bastian who screams and he is heard by Atreyu who, in his own story, turns over to find him. This is the first time in which reality mixes with fantasy: Bastian is not just a kid who is reading a novel anymore, but he becomes an external part of the book, and the same characters can perceive him. When Atreyu has to pass the test of the magical mirror, which shows “the true I” of anyone, he does not see his own face reflected on the glass, but the Bastian’s one who, ignoring that, continues to read.

After having passed all the challenges, Atreyu loses the Auryn (the Empress’ guiding-amulet) and he is prey to Gmork, the Nothing’s servant, which looks like a giant wolf ready to attack him. Even if it could seem paradoxical, the same Gmork tells us the big metaphor hidden behind the Reign of Fantasia and the Nothing: “Fantasia is the world of human fantasy: everybody, every creature is a piece of the dreams and hopes of mankind (…). Fantasia is dying because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams, so the Nothing goes stronger. (…) The Nothing is the emptiness that is left; it is like a despair, destroying this world, and I have been trying to help it because people who have no hopes are easy to control.”

Will someone save Fantasia? Of course, but who? How? Let’s find out!

This movie should be seen several times, to understand deeply every layer, every detail: you will be surprised by discovering how many things do not emerge at a first sight, and how big and all-knowing has been the cinematographic transposition of a universal problem, as the loss of fantasy. Just like Bastian, I felt myself called to let my feet leave the ground and to fly a bit higher, without any restriction, because “the more wishes you make, the more magnificent Fantasia will become.” And so, dream! I hope you always trust in your imagination and in the power of your wishes, even when someone will tell you that dreams are only for kids. Believe in yourself.

Articolo a cura di: Benedetta Pitocco

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