“Don’t start to doubt yourself….be confident!”
It’s so simplistic yet so enthralling an idea to have a scene based entirely on such a fragile thing as a young boy’s confidence. Sorry to be cynical as well, but I very much doubt that today’s fantasy movies would have the patience needed to deliver such carefully held suspense, or indeed be brave enough to display the almost adult threat radiating through the screen. When the fallen knight’s helmet pops up, you, Bastian and all the young children watching recoil in horror all at the same time, a storytelling master-stroke as it shatters everybody’s confidence, tying the entire theme and thread of the film together, epitomising the link between viewer and hero.
When I saw this scene as a child, I am not afraid to admit I did so from behind the sofa, chewing at my nails in anticipation and anxiety, as I and Engywook both worried and hoped that Atreyu would have the confidence to stay blind to the Sphinx’s eyes. But seeing as they open anyway, and Atreyu makes it through just by running quite fast, it seems a somewhat fallible defence mechanism. In fact, looking back at the towering figures, it probably would have been a bigger challenge for Atreyu to not look at the Sphinxes’ giants boobs than just to believe in himself. But all that can be forgiven when you watch one of the tensest, and most wonderfully cinematic moments in fantasy cinema.