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Soundtrack review: The neverending story (German edition, Klaus Dolinger, 1984)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The neverending story (German edition, Klaus Dolinger, 1984)


It’s Friday and also a holiday here in our country, so I’ll count this one as a weekend day. And since it’s the weekend, it’s time to travel back in time once again to the decade I promised I’d feature every end of the week, the wonderful 80s.  Today it’s special, because the score I’m reviewing is for the movie of my childhood, the one story I can say I grew up with, having watched it some 50 times before I was 11…and many times since then as well: “The neverending story”, the original first movie.
Tango & Cash wasn’t enough, you said; you wanted more 80’s German synth pop and keyboard magic? Well…here it is! Just grab a copy of “The neverending story” by Klaus Dolinger and close your eyes. This is a review of the German edition of the score. There’s also a US edition, with additional arrangements by disco guru Giorgio Moroder.
While it works well as a standalone listen, this score will no doubt mean a whole lot more to the ones who saw the movie and loved the story. As soon as the main theme, sung by Limahl, starts, memories flood me and I find myself on the back of the happy dragon Fuhur, flying over fantasia. This main theme is one of the best themes ever written in the 1980s. I’m sure you’ve all heard it and lip synched to it at some point in your life.
What stands out? Der Elfenbeinturm (The Ivory tower theme) is a tender fairy tale track, one suitable for someone as good and pure as the Child Empress that lives in that far away tower. The theme returns at the end of the score, when the hero reaches the empress. The soft but poignant choral work and simple notes work perfectly.
Artax Tod (the heartbreaking scene where the child hero Atreiu loses his horse in the swamps of sadness) is a cue that could very well stand proud on any of the Lord of the rings soundtracks, that’s how deep and powerful it is.
Die Sьmpfe der Traurigkeit (The swamps of sadness) is a flute driven cue that carries me back to that grey, heavy and muddy place where Atreiu almost lost his way. There’s desolation in this track, there’s loneliness but there’s also hope.
My favorite theme from the score though is the “Happy flight” theme. The scenes where Atreiu flies on the happy dragon were always my favorites when I was a child; flying over a fantasy land on the back of a dragon that looked like a huge Golden Retriever, smiled all the time and also talked seemed like the most awesome thing in the world to me back then. Can’t say I’d refuse an experience like that today either …
In the beginning of the movie, Bastian the little boy runs from bullies and hides in an old bookstore. He notices a strange book with a symbol on the cover, and after the bookkeeper tells him not to touch it, he takes it and runs with it. He becomes part of the story and the movie enfolds…After I first saw the movie, I truly believed that I was going to go through the same experience if I found that magical book. I went to look for it at the library of my school (a lovely room that smelled of old books and, to me, was the exact replica of the bookstore from the movie) and, as fate would have it, I couldn’t find the book. They had only one copy, and it was always on loan to some other kid. This only added to the magic of the story for me, and I kept going back to the movie…And when I finally got to read the book, a few years later, it was one of the most special reading experiences of my life.
…and many years later, this book was the first gift I gave to my future wife. And on our first vacation together with my parents, we ended up in Michael Ende’s (the German author of the book) home town, and read parts of the book in his park there. It was wonderful…
If you read the book and / or saw the movie, the score will be a trip back to Fantasia and to the moment this movie meant something to you. If the movie doesn’t mean much to you, listen to this if only for the unmistakable trademark sound of the 80s…
My ratings:
Cue score: 93.3 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 41 / 45
Album excellence:  91%
Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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