ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE: BEST PICTURE
A creative teacher momentarily sheds light into an otherwise authoritarian boarding school. [ Dead Poets Society credits: Dir: Peter Weir/ Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke/ 128 min/ Drama/ Individualism]
“A moving film from anyone’s perspective, but it’s particularly likely to reduce teachers to tears.”
“Seize the day … Make your lives extraordinary.” So exhorts the teacher in this film to his regimented students. That kind of talk leads to independent thinking and action, and eventual conflict with the demands of parents and school administrators. The film doesn’t attempt to confront the complex issues concerning rights and responsibilities—of students, parents, or schools. Rather, it dramatizes the effects of a clear case of life-destroying discipline.
Fundamentally, the conflict here is between romanticism and realism. The (good) romantic English teacher has ideas of awakening the soul of his students through poetry, of making them freethinkers, and of encouraging individualism. He is opposed by two (bad) realists. The first is the headmaster, who views the purpose of the school to be preserving tradition, enforcing conformity, and faithfully producing his brand of professionally minded student. The second is the parent of one of the students, who is hell-bent on making his kid a doctor whether he wants to be one or not, and it all ends in high drama when said student decides he just can’t take it anymore.
Robin Williams, entertaining as always, easily assumes the role of dream teacher. He is supported by highly sympathetic, doe-eyed victims Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke. A good script, artful cinematography, and effective use of music also contribute much. Dead Poets Society is a moving film from anyone’s perspective, but it’s particularly likely to reduce teachers to tears.
“Dead Poets Society peals a bell for intellectual freedom, creativity and, if nothing else, more Robin Williams movies.”
“Story sings whenever Williams is onscreen. Screen belongs just as often to Leonard, who as Neil has a quality of darting confidence mixed with hesitancy. Hawke, as the painfully shy Todd, gives a haunting performance.”
How to See It
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