Rating: ‘West Germany 6’ I can’t find the pre-Fall of the Berlin Wall rating system but it relates to the current German ‘Green 12’ or ‘12’ corresponding to the UK’s ‘ PG’ or perhaps ‘U’.
Runtime: 101 min.
Momo (1986) is a film adaptation of the German novel by Michael Ende (author of The Never Ending Story), a book which had a few names including The Grey Gentlemen or The Men in Grey. The original film is in German but there is an English dubbed/audio version, and also an Italian cartoon and English language opera amongst other adaptations. Mum and I watched this on Friday (‘Honey’ Moon, Full Moon, on Fri 13th first time in 95 years) and were surprised at what we found. I’d passed over it a couple of times recently, interested but ‘not the right time’, then just decided to watch it on Friday, I didn’t know what it was about other than the girl going up against the ‘Greys’ which is interesting in and of itself.
It’s currently available on Amazon.co.uk as an import (all regions) with English sub-titles for £19.89. The dubbed version can be watched on Youtube here:
It’s going to be hard to write this in cohesive form as there’s simply so much going on (yeah I know, an oxymoron) – the surface layer is one of friendship, devotion, community; the middle layer is about corruption of those, of ever-increasing change to modernity, losing what is valuable; and the huge, hidden (or not so hidden, hidden in plain sight) layer is all the symbolic power and meaning in the names, faces, characters, scenes and props. If you thought the Never Ending Story trilogy was packed with ancient metaphors and allegories then Momo is bursting at the seams yet unlike the aforementioned it’s not filmed in a glamorous, glossy, colourful, high-tech (for the time) way. It makes more sense because Momo is set in reality as we know it on Earth, but also because the author Michael Ende was unhappy with the portrayal of The Never Ending Story and lack of spirit from his book. Momo was written before TNES but made into a film afterwards and Ende had more of a say in the filming. That said, Momo switches back and forth between ‘reality’ and ‘other worldliness’ due to the nature of the non-human characters involved plus the use of colour and tempo of movement makes it somewhat strange and surreal.
PLOT AND COMMENTARY
It starts as a figurative journey, on a train, in a cabin with two passengers (reminds me of ‘Night on the Galactic Railroad’ in more ways than one, novel published in 1934). One passenger is the author Michael Ende in a cameo role and the other is the storyteller of the film and one of the main characters, Master Secundus Minutus Hora (Second, Minute, Hour) who appears in the cabin out of ‘Nowhere’. This is a point that isn’t noticeable or referred to in the film, but relates to a pivotal point in the later plot, emphasized as both men wear glasses and exchange them for a moment. What the passenger played by Ende sees shows the audience (in hindsight) where in the narrative the film begins and that Hora is asleep/dreaming/traveling out of body which is somewhat confirmed by his dialogue about time. ‘Master’ Hora goes on to tell the reluctant co-passenger the story of Momo.
In an unnamed Italian town on the outskirts of a city a street sweeper called Beppo Streetcleaner is doing his daily rounds when he ‘chances’ upon a girl sitting in a hole in a wall, the audience does not see her but hears her as she answers his questions, her name being Momo and her answer to why she is there “Home”. He leaves her to get her something to eat and whilst doing so describes to his friend a cafe owner that he’s found a Momo, a child, an “it”; the ‘it’ reference is continued until we see Momo come out of the hole (a practical reference to an unborn even if the sex is known because it is still a dependent on the Mother’s body and not viable or its own person or able yet – more on that later).
It turns out she is living in an amphitheatre, though the hole Beppo originally saw her in is different to one we and the local community are introduced to her in. It’s not one of the colossal amphitheatres we’re used to seeing in epic films; it’s a small town, a relatively poor one, in which the people don’t earn much having “an occupation that doesn’t bring in much money, but still manages to supply him (the women work too) with the free time for fun and fighting”. It seems that the people are generally happy or “a little mad perhaps, but likable”. To today’s standards the town would seem ‘merry’, ‘jovial’ and ‘welcoming’. After some cajoling Momo enters the light from the darkness and we see her for the first time. She is a young girl, homeless as we would see it, describes herself as much older than she is “100” and in the homogenously White community is dark skinned – a fact that is never mentioned. The people assume that she’s run away from an orphanage and cannot count, but akin to baby Annabel in the Mary Poppins books who says to the star-ling bird that she is everything, everywhere and comes from “darkness where all things have their beginning” Momo says the hole/cave is her home and “As far as I can remember… I’ve always been around.”
No one takes her in but they make her cave/inner room more habitable with furnishings and random items, she can now cook and is deemed a member of the townspeople, one that the people soon realize is a very valuable member indeed. Momo listens, really listens, to spoken, the unspoken, voices we perceive and the whispers of the wind, the rain, the air and her sincere listening calms, soothes and heals the troubles in others. People and animals feel better for having been around her.
So all seems ‘content’ in the town but not all is as it seems. Working against the healing tide of Momo are the ‘Men in Grey’ (not the Men in Black but probably a close association of 😉 ). A race of beings that look like human males, all bald, pale skinned, bald, clad in Grey suits with bowler hats, have numbers instead of names and addicted to cigars – they puff like there’s no tomorrow. They move around unseen unless they want to be, are not remembered afterward (except by Momo) and they are very, very organized.
“They made their presence felt in all part of the cities and seemed indefatigably occupied. They had plans for people’s time, wide scope and meticulously laid plans.”
They represent an institution/entity called the Timesavings Bank and can complete extensive calculations in a blink of an eye, in this confusing/mind boggling way of breaking down a person’s life into numbers they illustrate to people the flaws in their day to day lives, how much time they spend doing this and that with little time to themselves. They take advantage of that by getting people to save time doing things more efficiently or doing less and that ‘time is money not to be wasted‘. The people/’clients’ then start saving time seemingly under the allusion that they’ll get that time back perhaps like a retirement fund but instead it’s needed/used by the Greys as lifeforce and so the time saved is lost instead.
The people don’t know that their efforts are in vain and drastically change, they become increasingly worried and agitated about saving time, cutting costs, thinking in terms of deadlines and overheads, having less time for each other and obsessing about how they spend time, surviving but not living.
(The above episode is from a show called ‘Tales of Tomorrow’ 1951-53 featuring the bank of time and what it does to people.)
Momo and her two friends Beppo and Gigi (Guido in the book, a ‘jack of all trades’) are very worried at this “epidemic” but as Momo has the ability to heal she does her best to overturn the damage.
“And so Momo got one friend after another back where they belonged. In the process she was thwarting the Grey gentlemen turn by turn and that was not something they were prepared to put up with for very long.”
They try to bribe her but she rejects them and tries to warn the town, so the Greys try to kidnap her. But there are others watching and so Momo meets Master Hora via a tortoise called Cassiopeia. They want to defeat the Greys and the Greys want to perform a coup d’état on him. This takes the film into scenes of further supernatural nature as well as institutional corruption and social degradation.
Having met Hora makes things more complicated for the Greys but also presents an opportunity, then plot her downfall by isolating her from those she cares about, distracting them, making life even more difficult and complex. Can they use her knowledge as stepping stone or can she stop them and regain stolen time or will time come to a dead end?
The film is and would probably seem dated to first time viewers, and the pace is a little slow to begin with. There aren’t any extra special or obvious CGI effects akin to modern movies but there are visual effects to separate the world of Hora, humans and the Greys. Effects to slow and speed up time in Hora’s domain and lot’s of smoke and Grey for well, the Greys. Light and dark contrasting is also used throughout the film to focus and hide at the same time e.g. a scene in a police station is characterized by appearing to be shaded in thick stripes, with the light coming through in hazy, horizontal lines alternating with the dark. The policeman is elevated and you can’t really see him whereas the civilian is highlighted. Dark is also used as a background to emphasize light such as when Momo leaves her cave or when the Greys drive in the dark and we can only really see their headlights whilst they walk in the shadows.
Speaking of which, the colour in the film is clear but not vivid or glossy – it’s not exactly drab/gritty like UK filming was known for but the atmosphere is always medium. For example the weather is clear and warm but the sky tends to be lacklustre and the architecture and ruins in the town tend to blend in with it.
The sound is clear and though it’s a dub the voiceovers are not that obvious, the voice actors were well cast and convincing in their parts. I’ve seen a dubs with voices I’d never have thought belonged to a character, or obviously and consistently out of step with the mouths but here all the voices are rich and soulful in their own way – except the Greys, who aren’t supposed to be soulful anyway. There are a few songs but they are short and I would not call this a musical.
The setting is very authentic looking, they picked interesting locations – everything stone or complimentary brick, well placed ruins interspersed with ‘modern’ dwellings. The only ‘strange’ part would be the widening of the roads motorway style in the latter part of the film, where the town is still small scale in comparison to a city but probably illustrates the modernization of the town trying to be city-like as well as Momo’s increasingly busy/difficult journey.
CHARACTERS AND SYMBOLISM
I would write about Momo first but it’s easier to explain Momo’s position/heritage this way.
The name ‘Hora’ refers to the Greek goddesses of the seasons and time, we’d translate it as ‘hour’. Hence, Hora would be one of the hours of time. These goddesses were based off the earlier Fibonacci goddesses morphed from the Mahavidyas, worker forms of the Daughter/Mother/Dark Mother (One being split into three mostly referred directly to in the old Gnosticism and pre-Vedic/diluvian/Dravidian Hinduism though found through the Mother of all Gods in every old world religion and whose roots can be found by going back through the etymology in modern religions e.g. the three Abrahamic ones). The Horae (plural) are made up of triads, following the again age old triad formation of the Daughter/Mother/Dark Mother, Bala/Lalita/Kali, Maid/Mother/Crone going through many, many incarnations gradually being brought down, made into consorts and then absorbed or switched altogether by male versions e.g. the Spinners/Werdes later to become the Fates/Norns/Wyrds (based on the Mahavidyas and so Horae are connected to), Al-Lat/Al-Uzza/Manat, Qudshu/Astarte/Anat, Isis, Hecate, Brigid, Morrigan all the way to modern day Son/Father/Holy Ghost whose ancient counterpart still in common knowledge is the Hindu Shiv/Brahma/Vishnu (Vishnu more commonly known as Ram or Krishna) and their consort, wannabe Mother Goddess triad Laksmi/Pavarti/Saraswati. So why Hora is written as a man is just… uh? A way to fit in the third male ‘close’ influence in Momo’s life (more on that later) as well as the usual patriarchal supplanting.
Hora can also be seen as ‘Father Time’ – where does the image of Father Time from? Well this actually ties into the character Momo herself. One of the oldest Goddesses we know is Kala the Black, aka Kali the Destroyer/Protector, the Dark Mother whose name means ‘Black’ and ‘Time’ and one the items she holds is a sickle. Kali is part of a triple Goddess who is really One split into three, Bala/Lalita/Kali as aforementioned the primordial Daughter/Mother/Dark Mother. In many accounts when the Goddess appeared to humans in a non aggressive form it was as a child, usually at two age ranges 9-10 and 15-16 (the 15-16 one is often referenced in Japanese manga/anime for girl characters with god-like power). The term ‘Mother Time’ and indeed ‘Grim/Black Reaper’ though can be connected to a later version, Rhea Kronia aka the later revised male Chronos/Kronus. She was the Dark Mother in that she destroyed/took back her offspring/deities who’d failed to look after their charges/rest of creation hence covered in blood and carried a sickle. Such images were switched and replaced down the line with the ‘bearded guy in the sky’ image hence Master Hora has a modern god look, aged old man with White beard in a White home (except his inner, private apartments), yet in a Black robe (reaper style and Momo asks him if he’s Death). He cannot beat the time thieves/Greys and they cannot overcome Momo, both need Momo to try and defeat each other.
Hora has special ‘all-seeing glasses’ (spectacles) that images focused by surrounding blurriness. When the audience is shown what is seen through the glasses the presented image is kind of hard to see without pausing the film. The perimeter/outer/rim of the lenses are not clear, sometimes they have patterns and what you need/can look at is the centre image – so basically the lenses are curved and the clarity is lacking unless you’re adept at looking through a crystal ball. Thankfully I used to be good at picking out the image in those 3D images on the back of magazines. One time the outer rim is spinning and as the lenses show you ‘real/live-time’ perhaps it’s an ode to time as we know it being made by spinning/turning/rotation, when you stop spinning time stops or effectively stops due to heaviness. That is linked to the way time works in Hora’s domain.
His place of residence, ‘Nowhere House’ in ‘Never Alley’, is pure White and architecture curved like in a lens (remember his all-seeing-glasses), a great wind pushes visitors/intruders back – everything is reversed (like Father Time’s imagery itself) and writing upside down – so you have to walk backwards and slowly to go forwards at walking pace. (Stereotypically his place is reached by going upwards and the Grey’s by going downwards.) In keeping with reverse time and that time is heavier/slower the ‘lower down’/more physical a place/being is, 1 day in Hora’s place is 1 year and 1 day in ‘our’ reality.
To reach Hora you must follow a tortoise called Cassiopeia – who can see 30min into the future and communicates via writing that appears on her shell. (More about her later.)
Momo doesn’t look like the rest of the town, the book cover shows a South Asian looking girl by way of features and skin and the actress chosen was noticeable darker skinned than the others, she’s poor, homeless, and wearing old clothes/rags. Interestingly enough she wears an oversized men’s blazer, obviously for warmth/coverage but also perhaps symbolizing the she is wrapped in a form we as humans can see in our way of perception. She cannot read or write yet expresses a kind of universal language in her aura – when people are around her they feel at ease, comforted, and that they’re really being listened to and the effect the Greys have on them is undone. All the items she’s given are hand-me-downs and things that have been thrown away/found in the rubbish. It’s assumed she ran away from an orphanage but she doesn’t claim to have parents, or to have been in any human place beforehand nor thinks she has amnesia. Good and/or vulnerable divinity is usually poor or impoverished.
She’s found in a hole in the wall, this is representative of the cave analogy where the Daughter was sacrificed by/for creation that had fallen and resurrected from the cave much like the later stories of Ishtar/Inanna, later Persephone, other male versions and then the obvious predominant male version of this time period Jesus. The cave is symbolic of the vagina and birth.
An amphitheatre – a theatre of blood and war, rich and poor, beast and person, slaves for the entertainment of tyrants and watchers who’re glad it’s not them so visibly take part in the audience as raucously as they can. As if in reply to the cries for help there it becomes the home of the ‘saviour’ and ironically a playground for children. In one scene they symbolically play out a story from the imaginations pretending to be on a ship in a storm, they call out to Momo who appears to them from on high through an arch and then sings as a tribal goddess. The arch and pillars are representative too as an ancient vaginal symbol which is why many ancient temple designs incorporate pillars and arches at entrances/exits and the further back you go they are usually at the end of dark and/or narrow passages. Also bear in mind that the meaning of the name ‘Lalita’ – the Mother Goddess from which the Daughter (Bala) and Dark Mother (Kali) come from is ‘She Who Plays’ and ‘Red’.
She has three main friends in the film, including Beppo and Gigi who both claim bonds with her that surpass what they obviously know about her in this reality/life. Beppo says to Momo that they knew each other in a past life and helped made the amphitheatre in the past. He said he knew that because of 5 stones that he found. I have heard of the usage of 5 stones before but it’s not that widespread/often – there are the Sankara magic stones in later Hinduism (twisted in the massively misconstrued Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), the five stones David used against Goliath and Graham Hancock’s only work of fiction ‘Entangled’ (2010) though based on his extensive research in ancient history and archaeology – in which one of the two female protagonists Ria is given 5 magic stones for protection (Ria is closely associated with the other female lead Leoni – both Goddess connections). Beppo is overheard in his claim and is implied to be crazy (further yet falsely implied via police corruption as he’s forced into a stretch at a mental ward) – in many of the Indian god films I’ve seen where the Mother Goddess is invoked and comes to live amongst the people who called to help them, it’s usually an outcast and/or ‘crazy’/mentally young or slow person who sees her for what she is.
Gigi’s claim is made in the book and not the film (but interestingly relates hence I’m referring to it) when he tells Momo a story of ‘fictional’ characters Prince Girolamo (his alter ego) and Princess Momo – a story in which her and he get married to ultimately become immortal. Therefore the three main ‘friends’/al-lies of Momo are three men who are all ‘older’ (would be wiser/more cunning since older in this reality) than her; one who acts like a father, one like an uncle/friend and one like a lover – this is a complete mirror of the Fall of the Daughter story, where She is tricked by creations/demi-urges and trapped in the mundane/profane ‘our’ world. They are not really her friends and She needs to be rescued.
Men in Grey
Part of what they represent is the breaking down of the old for the new, one paradigm/time era after another which is shown in the films by the ‘ancient’ ruins, the current/present that people live in which is old fashioned to our standards or part-rural/suburban/small town and the future i.e. cityscapes, full industrialization/capitalism and consumerism (with ‘kinder storage’ aka holding children like prisoners and brain washing them). The Greys are the breakdown of life from living/breathing/being to components. They know everything about the people they take time from. Interestingly enough they also have their own version of CCTV before CCTV was publicly implemented.
They bring physical coldness to the area around them as if sucking the heat out of the place – they are sucking the time out of the people and making them worry, stress, dis-eased making them lose track of themselves becoming more automaton than human. Hence taking away their warmth and the time people save is taken/used by the Greys so that they can exist. Their behaviour, structure and purpose well fits the stereotypical aliens people know as the Greys.
They Men in Grey wouldn’t be complete without their cigars. What are cigars? In the story each person’s individual’s time is represented by a flower from their heard so the cigars are an easy to consume, suitably distasteful (a perversion of beauty) container. Symbolically the heart’s flower is the heart chakra. Flowers when looked upon from a bird’s eye view show the Fibonacci sequence and are the basis of all yantras/mandalas/chakras – symbols (including swastikas) of the Goddess and building blocks of life/creation, all geometric/sacred geometric hence many yantras have what looks like flowers on them. Cigars are apt not only as a phallic symbol but as the smoke, the Greys live in the smoke/veil/shadows – and the smoke is Grey. Also has the mundane meaning that cigars/smoking is unhealthy – as the Grey men breathe in other people’s time, people become ill, the cigars poison the flower.
Momo: “Why are they all so grey in the face?”
Hora: “Because they feed on dead matter. They live in people’s time, as you know, but time dies – literally dies – once it has been wrested away from its rightful owners. All human beings have their own share of time, but it survives only for as long as it really belongs to them.”
The story signifies a travel, journeys and the ways in which transport are used. The film starts with a train, Gigi lives in a minivan/bus, cars are used to pursue, surround and harass – transport to weapons, another old world parallel where vehicles were used frequently by deities and aliens for the same purposes be it traversing the stars or fighting battles here on Earth. In Hinduism the ‘gods’ are depicted to travel on animals but are actually hi-tech ships called Vimanas. In contrast to the transport used by Hora and Men in Grey, the transport characters use to find Momo are always damaged, imaginary or metaphysical e.g. a ship and bicycle. The ship used by children fighting their way through a storm calling for Momo and a Beppo on a bike trying to find Momo but the bike is broken by the cars of the Greys.
Momo tends to travel on foot though ultimately elevates to something different. In a metaphysical sense though her travels with Cassiopeia are interesting in their significance and the way they are shown to the audience. Cassiopeia is a tortoise and Momo has to follow her to get to Nowhere House at the end of Never Alley where Hora is. That implies that Momo follows the constellation Cassiopeia to get to the destination, and that would mean travelling through space and space is known as a ‘sea’ but Cassiopeia is a tortoise not a turtle. Yamuna/Kalindi from the Hindu pantheon, a later/changed version of Kali is known as a River goddess (a tributary of the Ganges/Ganga) and a death goddess (but in the patriarchal change was given a husband and made a consort), rides a tortoise not a turtle on the water and has Black/dark skin. This further intimates that Momo, Master Hora and Cassiopeia are actually based on Kali, direct part of the Mother of All Gods, Divine Mother. In the filming sense when Momo follows Cassiopeia she’s always walking on slopes, upwards or downwards it’s always on an incline.
The Men in Grey try to bribe Momo with dolls, not old fashioned ‘homely’ or intricate collectors dolls or even false baby images given to girls to promote/encourage breeding and being ‘prepared’ for adulthood whilst children, but bigger versions of ‘Barbie’ like dolls. The stereotypical Hollywood ‘illuminati’ style puppets or birds in gilded cages we are shown as idols to aspire to be/look like. A look which is an inverted take on beauty, that which is beautiful and attractive but hated/sneered at/envied/underestimated at the same time because of being beautiful and attractive. It is used as a tool for insecurity as well as an ‘object’ of desire, many wanting to control/own it thus taking away its freedom and/or desecrating it e.g. lepidoptery, often decreasing its beauty as a result – something the owner can then mock the previously beautiful with, despise and relish at the same time because that which was beautiful/higher than the controller is now visibly lower and can even cause disgust and be blamed for a loss that is not necessarily or majorly its own fault. That fits into the name of the initial doll ‘Lola’ given to Momo which is a twist on the Mother Goddess’ name Lalita, a twist aptly described in Vladimir Nabokov’s book ‘Lolita’. A book that’s been romanticized, seen as not that bad and been overshadowed by the gothic sub-genre of fashion. Like many authors of what we consider ‘classic’ and ‘iconic’ literature he was well educated (knowledge of the mystery schools), and knew about the true meaning and ‘story’ of the name Lolita (also known as Sophia in later, streamlined systems) and depicted the desecration aka Fall of the Daughter in his book which many find touching and intellectual. (Much like how many cite the Kama Sutra as if they didn’t know it explained how to ‘legally’ rape.) In the book he re-names her aka formally claims possession and ownership. That book goes into how the Fall happens or is desired to happen in the mundane/profane/physical ‘this reality’ way but a less famous book ‘Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded’ by Samuel Richardson (interestingly enough the name of demi-urge responsible for the Fall is later related to the name ‘Samuel’) published in 1740 touches upon the same theme but without the metaphysical aspect. That said back then it was more permissive to call overcoming the horrors that happen to the girl ‘virtue’ and ‘reward’.
Interestingly enough when Gigi is distracted from Momo’s disappearance he is controlled by handlers, his name changed from Gigi to Girolamo signifying his transformation. They own him, an action that is more than just a stage name, it’s a character change, a name change like a passing of a deed of ownership like a fiscal marriage.
“You’ve belonged to us for quite a while, body and soul, don’t say you didn’t know that. You’re a rubber doll, we blow you up and if you give us trouble we’ll just let your air out. Forget about it! We mean well hahahaha hehehehe… Do you believe that you owe your present position to your insignificant talent?… You are and you remain a dreamer, before you were Prince Girolamo wearing the mask of poor Gigi and what are you now? Gigi the poor wretch behind the mask of the TV star Girolamo… Don’t worry your pretty little head over her (Momo), you can’t help her and certainly not by telling funny stories about us! But we won’t stop you playing the hero if you want to destroy yourself go ahead… Gigi isn’t it much more pleasant to be rich and famous?”
His handlers (working for the Men in Grey) look very much like the dolls offered to Momo but come to life demonstrating a line of controllers and puppets within the same school of thought yet hierarchical. So the dolls are controlled but control those lower down the chain (think Donatella’s ‘Versace for H&M’ advert a while ago and her comments about the conveyor belt and clone models handled like puppets.) The dolls say “I’m baby girl, the perfect doll, everybody will be jealous of you because of me. I’d like more things.” To play with it, more and more friends/items/accessories are needed until a society based on buying and keeping up with the ‘Jones’’ is in place. Momo confronts the Grey trying to bribe her and reduces him to revealing himself in the face of her truth/real love/sincerity. This scares the shit out of him and he demands she forget everything he’s said.
Italian city – remember that Italy, in particular Sicily, and Catholicism have the modern carryover of the Dark Mother, the Black Madonna though she is rarely seen nowadays and usually placed outside the doors of the churches who still acknowledge her. The Black Madonna is a morph of many of the dark Goddesses of the Mediterranean and Africa traced back past the Sumerians/Phoenicians, Egyptians through to the Canaanites and of course to tribal African goddesses (e.g. the morph and demonizing from old culture into Graeco-Roman Medusa) and others from all ancients peoples, distinct likenesses to the older Time, Death, Protector Goddess Kali Maa the Dark Mother.
CONCLUSION (FINAL THOUGHTS)
Along with all the religious, supernatural and physical/mundane (the way society works/lives) representations in the film, philosophical questions are fitted in such as ‘Where does time come from?’ We are not told but shown the answer, or the symbols for it i.e. a ball/oval that opens to a lotus flower petal shapes, within which is a lily and turning hourglass, in addition to Momo seeing herself in a ‘reflection’ in water but not as she currently/physically looks, a self that is surrounded by flowers. Her time comes from within her heart, the lotus has always been representative of the Goddess upon which she sits whilst it floats and she holds a lily (amongst other things), flowers in general are symbols of life and creation.
I don’t really know what other films to compare this seemingly simple yet massively complex film to. I vaguely remember having seen one or two similar in filming style and perhaps in plot but don’t recall them enough to lookup the names. In nature something about it reminds me of Metropolis (1927) but mostly the closest cultural reference I can think of is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Those are books but include a race of beings called the Auditors with distinct similarities to the Men in Grey. They work as a consensus, a collective mind with many bodies that analyse situations like a committee but without the endless arguing and getting little done. They calculate possibilities or know them just as ‘instantly’ as the Men in Grey and meticulously orchestrate events to suit their agenda. Interestingly enough Terry Pratchett, like Michael Ende also played a cameo role in the BBC adaptations of his own books ‘The Colour of Magic’ and ‘The Light Fantastic’ and ‘Earth’/Discworld in his series features a turtle swimming in the sea of space.
On a superficial level this film would probably appeal to those who like somewhat nostalgic films with a sense of working together and generally friendly community in a supernatural/sci-fi genre. The social commentary is light but poignant, the plot compelling and acting convincing. Probably for older children and above in order to understand the plot/dialogue.
On another level there’s a lot to see here but remember “The most dangerous thing in life is to have your dreams come true.” Especially when they’re nightmares or tricks disguised as desires. Or as Momo replies to Gigi when he tells her not to worry about the town not listening to their warning and that they’ll find a new game: “This was no game”.
(Above film screenshots credit to: http://screenshotworld.blogspot.co.uk/2007/07/momo-1986.html)