Home > Reviews > THE NEVERENDING STORY (DIE UNENDLICHE GESCHICHTE) – Klaus Doldinger and Giorgio Moroder


September 25, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

neverendingstory-deTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Neverending Story is one of my most cherished childhood fantasy films, a love letter to books and the power of imagination, dressed up as a fantasy adventure set in a far-off world. Based on the novel Die Unendliche Geschichte by Michael Ende, it marked German director Wolfgang Petersen’s first English-language film after the international success of Das Boot in 1980, and starred Barret Oliver as Bastian, a young boy in suburban America who regularly suffers at the hands of school bullies. After being chased one day into a used book store owned by a grumpy bookseller, Bastian ‘borrows’ a book – The Neverending Story of the title – and begins reading it in his school’s attic. Bastian becomes quickly immersed in a story set in a world called Fantasia, which is being threatened by a force called “The Nothing”, a void of darkness that consumes everything. Fantasia’s child-like Empress (Tami Stronach) entreats Atreyu (Noah Hathaway), a young warrior, to find out how to stop The Nothing. In response, The Nothing summons Gmork, a highly intelligent werewolf, to find and kill Atreyu. The film has a rich and vivid cast of fantasy characters, most notably the luck dragon Falkor, and was a popular success when it was first released in the summer of 1984.

The music for The Neverending Story has a strange and complicated history. The original German cut of the film received a fairly traditional orchestral score by composer Klaus Doldinger, a jazz specialist who had already scored numerous films in Europe, including Das Boot for Peterson four years previously. However, when the film was released in North America, the film was partially re-scored by Italian electronic composer Giorgio Moroder – an Oscar winner for the film Midnight Express in 1978 and the composer for such massively successful films as American Gigolo, Scarface and Flashdance – in an attempt to make the film more appealing to 1980s kids. Not only that, the film also received a new theme song, “The Neverending Story”, performed by vocalist Limahl from the then-hot English synthpop group Kajagoogoo, which was a successful chart hit across the world.

However, by far the most important aspect of the score is Doldinger’s orchestral work, which is heard in its entirety on the German CD release of the score on the WEA Musik label. The centerpiece of the score is the rousing ‘flying theme’ that accompanies Atreyu as he soars across Fantasia on the back of Falkor. It’s an expansive, upbeat, crowd-pleasing theme with a great sense of movement and freedom, a sweeping string melody, and a noble brass counter, but which is unfortunately marred by several layers of clichéd 1980s bubbling synths that immediately date the piece and which will either annoy contemporary listeners, or make them collapse in fits of laughter.

The theme receives rousing performances in the opening “Flug Auf Dem Glücksdrachen”, in “Atreyus Flug”, “Flug Zum Elfenbeinturm”, and the conclusive “Flug Auf Dem Glücksdrachen – Schlußtitel”, and is structured to fade-in and fade-out without ever coming to a proper conclusion, subconsciously reinforcing the notion of the music, like the story, being never ending. Other cues, such as “Der Elfenbeinturm” and the second half of “Atreyus Berufung”, recapitulate Falkor’s theme with a more stately air, and even manage to work in a soft, angelic choir to magical effect.

A second, more determined theme, emphasizing the importance of Atreyu’s quest, is introduced in the aforementioned “Atreyus Berufung”, with heroic stepwise brass scales offset by a boldly dignified string melody. The pretty music-box like theme heard in “Phantásien” seems to be a minor leitmotif for the Childlike Empress herself, and re-occurs in “Die Kindliche Kaiserin”, in subtle counterpoint to a choral version of Atreyu’s Quest theme, while the pan flute textures in “Die Sümpfe Der Traurigkeit” and the first half of “Flug Zum Elfenbeinturm” introduce the mournful and reflective Sadness Theme, and have more than a hint of Gheorghe Zamfir about them.

Other cues of note include the mysterious textures in “Die Unendliche Geschichte – Titelmusik”, “Im Haulewald” and “Phantásien”, which build further on the sense of otherworldliness with impressionistic synth lines, often accompanied by an electronic harp, high-pitched woodwind phrases, and mischievous rhythmic ideas. Some of these more light-hearted, electronically-enhanced pieces actually remind me a little of the music Jerry Goldsmith would write for Ridley Scott’s fantasy fable Legend a few years later, albeit without Goldsmith’s creativity and genius.

Conversely, the terribly downbeat “Artax’ Tod” uses the synths to convey the despair felt by Atreyu’s trusty horse as it succumbs to its fate in the Swamps of Sadness, and to accompany the tears every 7-year-old shed in that traumatizing scene. Later, both “Das Südliche Orakel” and the subsequent “Die Drei Magischen Tore” give musical voice to the terrifying Southern Oracles – who have the power to obliterate anyone who does not have a righteous enough soul to pass the gates they guard – by combining more throbbing electronic textures with an unnerving, overpowering choral effect that speaks to their authority and omniscience.

neverendingstory-usThe North American release of the score, on the EMI Records label, carries over ten of Doldinger’s cues, each re-named into English, with one or two even edited down (“Spukstadt”, for example, is reduced from over 90 seconds to under 30, and is renamed “Gmork”), and combines them with the song and four of Giorgio Moroder’s new cues. As one might expect, Moroder’s synth ideas are even more dated than Doldinger’s, if that’s even possible: each makes use of an electronic brushed cymbal texture, tambourine ticks, boom-tish drumbeats, and a super-dramatic wailing electric guitar that couldn’t be more evocative of the 80s if it was wearing legwarmers. But here’s the rub; as much as these cues are horribly dated, I still sort of enjoy them as a nostalgic throwback to the time period, as Moroder did this sort of thing better than pretty much anyone except Harold Faltermeyer. Most notably, “Ivory Tower” has a cool brass fanfare theme buried underneath all the noodling synths, while “Ruined Landscape” has a sort of wistful bitterness to it that is difficult to describe, but which you’ll understand once the rock guitar kicks in.

The Neverending Story is very much a score rooted in it’s time and place in film music history, and your appreciation for it will very much depend on how much you can tolerate the period-specific electronic textures that have become so reviled in the intervening years. I personally enjoy it very much, as it takes me back to a period in my life that was simpler and less complicated; the fluidity of Doldinger’s flying theme, combined with Moroder’s unique compositional stylistics, and the cheesily wonderful song, all have a superb nostalgic quality which will be appealing to my generation, but admittedly may prove to be a little beyond the reach of anyone younger than me. I actually recommend picking up both the German and North American versions of the score, if you can find them – the former so you can hear Doldinger’s original concept as it was meant to be experienced, the latter to give you an excuse to break out your parachute pants.

Buy the Neverending Story soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Flug Auf Dem Glücksdrachen (3:12)
  • Die Unendliche Geschichte – Titelmusik (2:44)
  • Im Haulewald (3:01)
  • Der Elfenbeinturm (1:54)
  • Atreyus Berufung – Auryn Thema (2:47)
  • Phantásien (0:52)
  • Artax’ Tod (1:13)
  • Die Sümpfe Der Traurigkeit (2:39)
  • Atreyus Flug (2:27)
  • Die Uralte Morla (2:27)
  • Das Südliche Orakel (3:19)
  • Die Drei Magischen Tore (3:25)
  • Spukstadt (1:37)
  • Flug Zum Elfenbeinturm (3:02)
  • Mondenkind (1:19)
  • Die Kindliche Kaiserin (2:16)
  • Flug Auf Dem Glücksdrachen – Schlußtitel (1:19)
  • The Neverending Story (written by Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey, performed by Limahl feat. Beth Anderson) (3:32)
  • Swamps of Sadness (1:57)
  • Ivory Tower (3:10)
  • Ruined Landscape (3:03)
  • Sleepy Dragon (3:58)
  • Bastian’s Happy Flight (3:16)
  • Fantasia (0:55)
  • Atreyu’s Quest (2:51)
  • Theme of Sadness (2:42)
  • Atreju Meets Falkor (2:30)
  • Mirrorgate – Southern Oracle (3:09)
  • Gmork (0:28)
  • Moonchild (1:23)
  • The Auryn (2:20)
  • Happy Flight (1:22)

Running Time: 40 minutes 43 seconds — German Version
Running Time: 36 minutes 36 seconds — North American Version

WEA Musik 2292-50396-2 (1984) – German Version
EMI Records CDP7-92708-2 (1984/1986) – North American Version

Music composed and conducted by Klaus Doldinger. Additional music by Giorgio Moroder. Recorded and mixed by Tommy Klemt and Peter Kramper. Edited by Bob Hathaway. Score produced by Klaus Doldinger.

  1. September 27, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Great review. I’m not sure how “traditional” I would call Doldinger’s score, given how much synths are a part of it, but you’re right that it’s generally highly satisfying. The thing that irritates me about Moroder’s compositions is that the ones on the album simply aren’t the same as the ones in the film. “The Ivory Tower,” for instance, has a drum machine beat and a completely different (and more “poppy”) synths on the album plus guitars, while the film cues have no beat, no guitars, and much subtler and more real-sounding synths that fit in much better with Doldinger’s cues. I guess you could say that in the film I like the Doldinger/Moroder hybrid score best, but on album it doesn’t work nearly as well thanks to those selfsame arrangements.

  1. November 18, 2017 at 2:37 am

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