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The Neverending Story

Although I loved the movie as a child, somehow I managed to never read the original book of The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. I finally came across a copy of it at my favorite used book store, Feldman's Books, last week while looking for Yule gifts. Didn't find anything for anyone other than myself... ;-) Anyway, it's a good story.

I think it's interesting to see what happened when someone chose to make a movie of it. The movie is based only on the first half of the book, and oddly, while in most children's books that I've seen made into movies the child hero of the book was made more flawed, in this conversion it was a bit the other way around. Maybe it's six of one, half a dozen of the other, probably depends on what era the book was taken from, what the standard of idealism was that decade. In any case I thought that Wolfgang Petersen did a good job writing and directing the movie. It would have been interesting if he'd intended to do both halves of the book, as two movies, and really too bad that someone else tried to cobble on the second half of the book as a second movie six years later. In the book the first half is essentially about Bastian getting into Fantasia, and the second half about him getting out, and when he does he no longer has the book. In the movie he ended up seemingly free to cross back and forth, the realms were re-joined, a reasonable ending if you're not planning to go any further.

Thinking over it, up until the ending the movie is really remarkably faithful to the book. One of Sparky's favorite rants is how screen writers can't seem to help destroying perfectly good books when they turn them into movies. His claim is the Hollywood ego is so big it can't help but think it can do everything better than the original. I would say instead that they are desperate to be seen as independently creative individuals, but I agree with the surface charge that they do tend to ruin books they touch. But then this wasn't a Hollywood movie, it was a German one, filmed with the intent of releasing in English and German. The Neverending Story is a german book. Is it culturally the case that if a German is to go about remaking something he is more likely to remain true to the original, less likely to feel the need to leave his own fingerprints all over it? Or is it just an issue of subtlety?

Anyway, I'm glad I finally got to read the book. I enjoyed reading a fuller description of the mechanics of Fantasia - ok, they call it Fantastica in the book, but it's only a translation of the german, and I like Fantasia better - and the role of the Childlike Empress as the center, discriminating against neither the 'good' nor 'evil' characters of the realm. I was also happy to read the second half of the story, especially since I always thought that the end of the movie, when Bastian rides Falcor the luck dragon through the streets of his home city, chasing the bullies into the dumpster they'd originally thrown him into, was really really dippy. I guess I was a critical 8 year old...

Next up, The Crucible winter craft fair in Oakland. Time to take a shower.

Comments

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red_haired_girl
Dec. 19th, 2004 07:59 pm (UTC)
If you liked the book, I'd recommend reading "Momo", by Ende as well. It's one of my absolute favorite books.

On the movie - it is my understanding the Ende himself hated it. I loved it when I was 10, though, including the slightly cheezy Limahl theme song.
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