The Neverending Story (1984)
Saturday, February 25 at 12pm | Sunday, February 26 at 12PM

The best “children’s movies” seem to also offer a little something subversive for the grown-ups. I mean, how many movies from childhood do we watch later on in life only to realize the very adult undertones? And then enjoy the movie that much more because it has, in a way, grown up with us? In light of this, since we’re indulging in a bit of 1980s nostalgia with The Neverending Story this weekend at Nitehawk (nearly thirty years after its release), it seems only fitting mention this book in the context of finding one’s self. I believe one could even call it “existential”.

Michael Ende, author of The Neverending Story (or in its original German: Die unendliche Geschichte) published in 1979, wrote books for both children and adults, and was heavily influence by Rudolph Steiner’s idea of Anthroposophy:

Anthroposophy postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world accessible to direct experience through inner development. More specifically, it aims to develop faculties of perceptive imagination, inspiration and intuition through cultivating a form of thinking independent of sensory experience, and to present the results thus derived in a manner subject to rational verification…

You can see how The Neverending Story fits the bill: a young bullied boy, kind of wimpy and unsure, starts to read an ancient book that draws him into a fantastical world where his bravery and help will save it from total destruction by the “Nothing” (enter Heidegger, Existentialism, and the philosophical understanding of Being that stems from nothingness). Bastian is only able to learn about himself and gain self-confidence when immersed in a fantastical and spiritual-like experience.

When you think about it, many films aimed towards children (quite of few adapted from books and made in the 1980s) use children and fantasy as a channel for self-discovery and understanding of the world: Wizard of Oz, The Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, Flight of the Navigator, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and even The Princess Bride. It begs the question: what was it about the 1980s that made us think about ourselves so much?

And just in case you’re wondering just HOW age appropriate it is, Common Sense Media gives The Neverending Story provides parents with what they need to know (it’s PG and appropriate for kids over 3 years of age):

Parents need to know that while the overall message of this movie, which encourages children to become lovers of books, is a positive one, the scary adventures that take place in the film will scare very young children. The faceless “Nothing” sets out to destroy the land of Fantasia, and while the hero of the film has no weapons (at least until the story’s end), he does engage in a bloody clash with one of the Nothing’s emissaries. Other potentially upsetting incidents involve a steamrolling monster, bullies throwing a child into a dumpster, and a beloved horse being sucked into a swamp.