September 25, 2011

Stand by Me (USA 1986)

"I never had better friends than the friends I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?"

When I saw "Stand by Me" for the first time in the 90s, I was a young kid myself, not much older than the characters in the film but still growing up, discovering the world and my passion for cinema. Growing up in a rural area, my life was very similar to the ones of the boys back then. The film is set in 1959 but it is actually much closer to my experiences than to the ones of the Internet generation. Together with my friends, we often went to the woods to smoke secretly or just to have fun and talks about the things we couldn't or didn't want to share with the adults. The woods were a perfect place for that, a fascinating world within the world. We even had built a tree house which at least partially survived to this day. I didn't realize back then of course but I do now how very true the above quote from the film is. The film is my lost innocence captured on celluloid. And judging from the comments and reviews on various blogs and Internet sites, I am not the only one who sees it that way...

The universal nature of the film is also the main reason why it works so well. Not only for the male audience - it rates higher among females on IMDb - does it touch something in every one of us and makes brilliant use of one thing that movies do so well: connecting us with others and the world and giving us the feeling that we are not alone. The fact that the movie is superbly told (based on a great short story by Stephen King, a hero of my adolescence) as well as beautifully shot and acted only enforces that. The disappearance of River Phoenix at the end of the film is especially heartbraking given the circumstances he later left our world. Watching his great performance painfully reminds you what an extraordinary actor he would have become.

Looking at "Stand by Me" now 25 years later the film is also a portrait of an innocent generation. In a world without constant without Internet and video games, you still had to be actively looking in order to find something remotely exciting instead of having the kicks delivered comfortably to your living room. Kids were still in contact with nature back than and playing outside. New experiences were made in a frequency that still gave you time to process them. I seriously doubt that today's kids would be that excited about finding a body - they have seen too many of them on TV already. 

But even they will sooner or later be able to enjoy "Stand by Me". It is a film that transcends generations and a film that will never come of age. Many bigger and seemingly more important movies from the 80s are now forgotten but "Stand by Me" - in all its authentic simplicity - will never be.


The life-changing moment in "Stand by Me"

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