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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Stand By Me

Deutsche Version dieses Blogs hier.

(USA 1986)

Directed by
Rob Reiner

Based on the novella
"The Body"
by Stephen King

Wil Wheaton
River Phoenix
Jerry O'Connell
Corey Feldman

Kiefer Sutherland
John Cusack

Richard Dreyfuss


25 years ago, in August 1986, the movie STAND BY ME was released in the USA. Based on the novella "The Body" by Stephen King (from the collection "Different Seasons"), the movie was bound to get attention.

But your average King fans (me being one of them), who cherished (for good reasons!) the masterful horror and deep psychological thrill of King's until then published novels and short stories had to re-define their perception a bit, when approaching as well the novella as the movie.

The novella "The Body" had, on the surface, other tones to it than the nerve-wrecking suspense and nightmare-provoking (sometimes even "daymare!") descriptions that readers know and love from King's works, such as "Carrie", "The Shining", "Cujo" or "Salem's Lot", let alone his early master piece "It". The element of the supernatural is missing from "The Body" - but this meant by no means that this story does not touch you deep within and chill you to the bone at times!

Gordie Lachance
(Wil Wheaton)
"The Body" deals with an adult man's memories of his childhood in 1960, when he, at the age of twelve, had to deal for the first time in his life with the death and loss of a loved one.

Gordon "Gordie" Lachance lost his beloved older brother Danny in a car accident only a short while ago. Gordie's parents, in their grief, are hardly able to put the pieces of their lives together again, and therefore neglect their younger son - "That summer, I had become the Invisible Boy,"  says Gordie, who had anyway always lived a bit in the shadow of his older brother Denny (a top-grade student and football ace).

Gordie's passion is not sports, but making up stories - something that then also helps him a bit in trying to cope with his brother's death (who was, unlike their parents, fond of Gordie's writing talent), and that would later in his adult life become Gordie's profession.

Needless to say that Gordie Lachance is Stephen King's alter ego in this story.

Vern, Chris, Gordie and Teddy
Hanging out with his three best friends Chris, Teddy and Vern is the other counterweight to Gordie's deeply rooted trauma.

Still, their friendship is based partly on each if the kids having their own issues that overshadow their lives: 

Chris comes from a dysfunctional family prone to alcoholism and criminal behavior. Teddy is stricken with a father who suffers from being massively traumatized by serving in World War II, and Vern is an overweight, timid kid who gets mocked and bullied a lot (starting with his older brother). And altogether, this gang of four gets picked on by older guys on a regular basis.

Living through summer break by hanging out together every day, those four boys are about to go through a lot when they decide to venture on a hike together, to find the missing dead body of Ray Brower, a boy their age from a neighbouring town, who went out to pick blueberries alongside a railway track, and got killed by a train.

By chance, Vern got to know where the body of the boy may be found, and the four friends decide to go and recover the missing body, so they will be in the papers for that, and maybe even on TV, and thus become "heroes".

Those of you who know the novella or the movie need no further description - and those who indeed are not privy yet to King's story and / or the movie, will not find any further details here. You should go and discover both of them yourselves - I put the appropriate links for you to take action on that to the end of this blog.


When the movie was released in Germany (which was not before February 1987), I was captivated by it completely, and actually went to see it at the movies twelve times within three weeks.

Yes, being a Berufsakademie student at at that time definitely offered advantages - studying left me time enough to devote myself to the "really important things in life" in an appropriate measure :-)!

I watched the movie back then from several perspectives, as I was ...

... a fan of Stephen King (who loved, and still does so, King's skills of describing events as well as characters and emotions, and I found so much of this in the so well-made movie)

... a young man of only just 22 who still was in touch with his childhood and teenage years enough, to find parts of his own life portrayed symbolically in the plot and the four main characters (had not been so long ago that I made the transition from childhood to puberty, and having my share of burdens, confusion and fears to carry in the process)

... a student of social pedagogoic / social work for some months at that time, and I was beginning to find things in the movie's story that had a strong relation to my future field of work (lots more of that in later years then). 

And I also cherished more and more to watch and study the reactions of the always changing audience with every screening, to scenes that I, having watched the movie before already, knew would come. It was kind of intense (in a good way), to basically know in advance (and to the second!) when people would be surprised by something and start, would say "Ewwww!", would be laughing out loud, or actually be moved to tears.

Still, those last mentioned things happened only on a side line, as I indeed immersed myself into the movie every time. I did not know it back then, but it held a lot that would be of meaning to me, and in most intense and downright tragic ways, only later in life.

And this is the reason, too, for today's blog.


Looking back 25 years, and then back into the present, I see the former child actors having become adults, and the tides of time have taken their toll on them. Well, but the same has happened to me, of course:

Having been only a young adult back then, I am now just as well as the actors a quarter of a century older ... with all the physical side-effects that come from it. So much for the outside.

Still, in addition to the things in the story that I could relate to back then when I watched this movie for the first time(s), I now also can identify with the figure of the grown-up Gordon Lachance, which I couldn't 25 years ago.

When I now watch the opening scene, I see myself.

The driver's seat of Lachance's jeep was the chair at my desk, and the newspaper, in my case, was an e-mail. Technicalities, differences on the surface. But the state of shock, and the grief, are the same.

After 25 years, STAND BY ME has a new and added impact on me, caused by something devastatingly terrible that happened a little more than two years ago from now, when Kel died ... and also something else that struck only a year ago, by Mike passing away.


What Gordon Lachance does then, by writing down his memories and putting them into a story ... well, I do that on an ongoing basis, so to speak: By making videos, by writing blogs, and by writing and talking to (or better with) people who approach me, responding to those things I do by writing comments and messages, who talk to me about my loss and want to know more - but, ever so often, also bring themselves in to the picture, by talking about things that happened to them, and left them bereaved and grieving.

I know that finding closure is important, so we can move on in our lives, after losing someone we love. But I think that finding closure is an ongoing process - something that will get easier, by the passing of time, but that will never be really over.

Memories of our loss will come back and haunt us. And sometimes this will happen when we least expect it, and the blow will hit hard, even if a long time has passed since fate forced us to part ways for good with a loved one.

Hearts and souls have their own ways, and the walls we build around them, in the attempt of protecting them (and thereby us) from pain and grief, will never really be high and wide and flexible enough to do that job effectively.

"I had not seen Chris in over ten years ... but I know I will miss him forever."

Those words by the main character of Stephen King's story hold a basic truth that I agree with. But to me, there is a bit more to that, still, and this makes a major difference.

To me, the key lies in coming from missing to remembering.

I do not try to build new and solid walls - on the contrary: I keep the windows to my heart and to my soul, which I find in those walls that are already there, open. And whenever there is a chance, I even put in a new window or two. I look back at the time Kel and I spent together, and I share my memories with those who want to know more about him.

If I would write a book about Kel (which, one day, I might still do ... it's all there and sorted out in my head already), the final sentence of that book would be a statement that I hope all of us will be able to say to those we love - if we dare to not hide our broken heart behind walls. I'll write it down here, and everyone may feel free to use it for themselves, speak it out or write it down, and putting in the name of the beloved person who passed away:

You are dearly missed,
but you will never be forgotten,
and you will be loved for ever.

Coming from missing to remembering means finally to come to love ... again. And there is nothing more important we need to have in our lives.

By this, I know that Kel will a part of me for always. He will be with me, and he will ...



Watch the movie:

Read the novella "The Body"
in the book
"Different Seasons"
by Stephen King

which also contains the original stories for the movies
"Shawshank Redemption"
"Apt Pupil"



1 comment:

donsden93 said...

Yeah Michael,I guess closure will be an ongoing process as we are visited often by memories of those we lost...Kel,cuz's Mike&Stew.
& I'll now see the movie "Stand by me" in a diff light next time I see it (it has been a long time).Tnx 4 this blog&sorry I hadn't seen it till now.
God bless&take care-DONNIE