on 5 April 2006
I still remember fondly seeing this at the cinema back in 1989. It's as fresh now as it was then and still totally inspiring. Every time I watch this it leaves me feeling inspired and ready to grab life by the horns. "Make your lives extraordinary boys" says Robin Williams. It serves as a constant reminder that one day you'll be gone and quite probably forgotten, so make the most of your life and seize the day. The ending still kills me even now. An often overlooked classic.
on 17 November 2002
This film has to be one of the most inspiring that i have seen in my short lifespan. Robin Williams is fantastic in his portrayal of an english teacher who is so passionate about the world and the poetry the world inspires that he ignites a group of young students with a powerful flame which is not doused even by tragedy .An electric charge runs through body and mind when you encounter this film. I challenge anyone to leave after seeing this film and not want to "seize the day".
on 2 November 2008
"I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." (Henry David Thoreau, "Walden.")
Hands up folks, how many of us discovered Thoreau after having watched this movie? Really discovered I mean, regardless whether you had known he'd existed before. How many believe they know what Thoreau was talking about in that passage about "sucking the marrow out of life," cited in the movie, even if you didn't spend the next 2+ years of your life living in a self-constructed cabin on a pond in the woods? How many bought a copy of Whitman's poems ... whatever collection? (And maybe even read more than "Oh Captain! My Captain!"?) How many went on to read Emerson? Frost? Or John Keats, on whose personality Robin Williams's John Keating is probably loosely based? To many people, this movie has a powerful appeal like few others and has proven inspirational far above and beyond the effect of an ordinary movie experience. And justifiedly so, despite the fact that charismatic Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), one of the story's main characters, tragically falters in the pursuit of his dreams, in the wake of apparent triumph. Because although Neil's story is one of failure, ultimately this film is a celebration of the triumph of free will, independent thinking and the growth of personality; embodied in its closing scene.
Of course, lofty goals such as these are not easily achieved. Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) in particular, the last scene's triumphant hero, is literally pushed to the edge of reason before he learns to overcome his inhibitions. And Thoreau warned in "Walden:" "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; That is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." Anyone who takes this movie's message to heart (and Thoreau's, and Whitman's, and Emerson's, Frost's and Keats's) knows that success too easily won is often no success at all, and most important accomplishments are based on focus, tenacity and hard work as much as anything else. And prudence, too - dashing Charlie Dalton (Gale Hansen) pays a terrible price for his spur-of-the-moment challenges of authority; although of course you just gotta love him for refusing to sign Keatings' indictment. "Carpe diem" - live life to its fullest, but also know what you are doing. You won't enjoy this movie if you are afraid of letting both your mind and your feelings run free.
Shot on the magnificent location of Delaware's St. Andrews Academy, "Dead Poets' Society" is visually stunning, particularly in its depiction of the amazingly beautiful scenery (where the progression of the seasons mirrors the progression of the movie's story line), and as emotionally engaging as it invites you to reexamine your position in life. Robin Williams delivers another Academy Award-worthy performance (he was nominated but unfortunately didn't win). Of course, Robin Williams will to a certain extent always be Robin Williams ... "Aladdin's" Genie, "Good Morning Vietnam's" Adrian Cronauer and "Good Will Hunting's" Professor McGuire (the 1997 role which would finally earn him his long overdue Oscar) all shimmer through in his portrayal of John Keating; and if you've ever seen him give an interview you know that the man can go from hilarious and irreverent to deeply reflective in a split second even when it's not a movie camera that's rolling. Yet, the black sheep among Welton Academy's teachers assumes as distinct and memorable a personality as any other one of Williams's film characters.
Of its many Academy Award nominations (in addition to Robin Williams's nomination for best leading actor, the movie was also nominated in the best picture, best director [Peter Weir] and best original screenplay categories), "Dead Poets' Society" ultimately only won the Oscar for Tom Schulman's script. But more importantly, it has long since won it's viewers' lasting appreciation, and for a reason. - As the Poet said: "Camerado! This is no book; Who touches this, touches a man" (Walt Whitman, "So Long!"), this is no movie; who watches this, watches himself!
This has to have one of the best endings in film history. Robin Williams is brilliant as the rookie English teacher who persuades disillusioned school kids to re-capture their thirst for life and creativity. If you're ever feeling at a loss, or frustrated, just watch this to give you a kick in the right direction!
on 5 August 2005
Let's face it. Nobody has time for soppy tragic films these days because there are simply too many of them. The rack at my local Blockbusters is groaning under the weight of a hundred films all vying for our tears and to be quite frank none of them are willing to bloody earn them. So you can imagine the premeditated cynicism that I sat down to watch my hastily rewound copy of Dead Poets Society with. The only tears I was anticipating shedding were those of blood as I was scratching my eyes out in a vain attempt to make the film a little more interesting. However, two hours later and there was not a trace of blood to be seen, in fact I was pleasantly surprised and I believe that this little gem will leave even the toughest of you with a small and heartfelt tear in the corner of your eye.
Dead Poets Society is set in post-depression 1950's America and is the story of six teenage boys at one of the top high schools in the country as they reach the end of their education. As the saying goes "boys will be boys" but they have never really been allowed an outlet for this boyish spirit and expression. The characters we see at the beginning are self-assured and cocky but underneath they are just insecure little boys who need something to hold onto. This however is before the arrival of Professor John Keating, marvellously portrayed by Robin Williams, who takes the boys as their new English teacher. The boys first, and probably most memorable meeting with Keating is in their first lesson with him as their teacher. He enters the room and tells them to turn to a page in their books before promptly telling them to tear it out because it is nonsense. This has a profound impact on the boys whose usual lessons call for conformity and adherence to all rules and this is all turned on its head and blown away by a figure of authority. By this point the group realise that this man means business and they also realise that they might just be interested. He then tells the boys to gather round him before uttering the immortal line "We are all part of a beautiful play, you will have a chance to contribute a part, what will it be?". Dead Poets Society is full of small carefully thought out touches such as this, which make it the beautifully ambient film that it is. This film really does glow with an almost tangible atmosphere created by the combination of true believability and circumstances so terrible you dread to think that they could really happen.
However the film takes on a rather darker tone towards the end. After all the inspiration and reason for life that Professor Keating has given the boys an event takes place that rocks the foundations of all they have come to learn and believe. This is an excellent choice of plot over the altogether overused and boring route that the film could so easily have taken by keeping the plot unchallenging and open to a "wider audience". Or in other words to able to make more money. It is ironic that the very thing that makes this film appealing is the fact that it wasn't designed to be appealing.
Dead Poets Society is an inspiring and thought provoking film from director Peter Weir. The superb acting of the boys played by Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke and Gale Hansen brings this epic script to life and gives the film the emotional credibility that makes it outstanding. Weirs intimate directing style draws you into the story so that you almost develop a bond with the characters and you really care what happens to them. It is both uplifting and devastating. It is this mixture of emotions that the film conjures that makes it so enjoyable. The artistry of the film in its portrayal of the characters progress from insecure boys with no meaning to their lives to independent and loyal men who have a passion for life is, at worst, magical and at best breathtaking, awe inspiring and brilliant all at once. When watching the film one almost feels like one of Keating's students in the classroom, being enlightened and inspired, discovering a new vigour for life, a new reason for getting out of bed in the morning and seizing the day. I recommend this film to anyone, old or young, who feels that they have lost there way on the path of life and needs setting straight again. Carpe Diem - seize the day and go and see this film and I guarantee you will be crying and laughing and making magnificent plans for doing things that you've always wanted to do but never really saw a reason for, and now you will know that reason, simply that you have the day so go out and seize it!
on 18 September 2011
Thank God, that there are some people on the planet that understood this film for its purpose, to show the intimate and spiritual side of life that is so sadly lacking in the modern world. Poetry has a substance to it that can either flatten you out or lift you up. The great thing is that there are many different styles of poetry to cater for all kinds of tastes.
In this film Prof. Keating derives his teaching talents through many different Poets and enables his students to grasp that which is normally reserved for the "Romantics", those people who seem to exist in a different world to ours.
But the film shows that anyone can pick up a compendium of Poetry and discover a new world, one where there's hope and one where another man's vision can inspire and give one a sense of direction.
The many characters in the film mirror those in adult life and the decisions we will all have to make at some point, more often than not against the will of those closest to us. What I love about this film is that there is no censorship of the extremely delicate nature of suicide and the reasons behind making such a decision. It doesn't elaborate or sensationalise the act, but brings it into our world with a tangible essence that for me, showed just how vulnerable and easily breakable we all are in this seemingly cosy and secure existence.
The film also remains a testament to the art of teaching, the pros and cons of going beyond that which all teachers aspire to, bringing young men to adulthood through wisdom and knowledge. Its a hard compromise, juggling your desire to further a boys education through the normal avenues of schooling and giving them the range of choices they will encounter, but arming them with the tools to make the right choice. In this, the film shows that there are dangers involved with unconventional teaching within an established curriculum and in particular, learning about the high moralistic values that Poetry can convey on a naive and innocent mind.
Of course, Dead Poets Society is only one example, though extreme, of the possible ramifications in the nature of a singular English teacher in a respectable college in America, but it brings the wonderful colour of Poetry to our screens and delivers a message that there are other things we should discover in ourselves that are waiting to be exposed through journeys of exploration through the written word.
on 28 August 2015
Although the most mainstream film (along with Green Card) by great Peter Weir (Last Wave, Year of liveing dangerously, Truman Show, Gallipoli, Master and Commander) it is still one of his best and a definitive great movie: the perfect mix of Hollywood entertaining and engaging ability with an author personal, uncommon and deep touch (that you can tell from cinematography, editing, use of sound, and topics that emerge along the story and between the lines).
Probably also one of the most impacting and relevant film in cinema history and in the society of the last 30 years, having marked and impressed so many people, especially those who where young 25 years ago and, I think, even following youth generations.
Maybe because it is not just powerfull and true, but also deals with some universal and immortal emotions and values: fear of dying, fear of living, thirst for life and urgent need of letting thought and emotions come out, plus the constant and unresolved tension between individual and society. And one of the film Robin Williams will be always remembered for.
An excellent blu ray.
on 29 July 2004
I am quite a big fan of Robin Williams, and i have to say that this is definately one of his better films, which deals with some quite serious and powerful issues, while still incuding plenty of the Robin Williams humour that we all know and love.
In this film, set in 1959, Williams plays Proffessor John Keating who arrives to teach English in a sedate New England school where he was formerly a pupil. His unconventional and extraordinary teaching methods inspire a group of students to reform a forbidden club where they secretly talk to each other about their dreams and aspirations. However his methods anger the other teachers, and when he encourages a student to follow their dream of acting rather than listening to their parents, he is blamed when the boy comits suicide after his father bans him from acting and withdraws him from the school.
As i have said previously, 'Dead Poets Society' deals with some powerful issues, such as suicide, and therefore does in some cases require parental imput to the younger children, to help them understand the situations.
The acting is brilliant from all of the well-picked cast, and Robin Willaims, as i have said earlier, is supurb in his role as the new English Proffessor whose carisma and love of poetry inspires many of his students. Robert Sean Leonard is also very good in his role as the boy whose parents are trying to control his life.
With a great script, plenty of typical Robin Williams humour, and some very emotional storylines, all woven together, 'Dead Poets Society' is a real winner and has somthing that is sure to satisfy every viewer. Recommended as a film that all the family can sit down and watch, and talk about later.
DEAD POETS SOCIETY
(USA - 1989)
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Theatrical soundtrack: 6-track Dolby Stereo
The late 1950's: A radical teacher at an ultra-conservative boys' school encourages his pupils to develop an independent mind through poetry, music and literature, setting in motion a chain of events which culminate in triumph... and tragedy.
Beautifully photographed evocation of a time and place, directed by Peter Weir (PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, GALLIPOLI) with a keen eye for character and detail. Tom Schulman's Oscar-winning script - loosely based on the author's own experiences at school - uses the arts as a launching pad for a new way of looking at our 'ordinary' lives, prompting top-billed Robin Williams (as the teacher) to lead his bright young charges (including Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke) down unfamiliar pathways and encouraging them to 'Seize the Day!'
Weir indulges his fondness for moments of magical realism to great effect (eg. a lone piper on a jetty at dusk; the bewitching use of slow motion during the film's most heartbreaking passage, etc.), whilst also transforming unpretentious set-pieces into something rare and life-affirming (cf. Williams' first classroom scene; the 'J. Evans Pritchard' episode; Hawke's on-the-spot creation of a very special poem, etc.). Further magic is provided by Maurice Jarre's uplifting music score, which builds upon a number of basic themes before reaching an emotional crescendo during the film's final - and most famous - sequence. Lives have been changed forever by this extraordinary movie.
on 19 October 2014
This is a story about a new teacher to a New England school steeped in tradition (and beautiful countryside), teaching boys from wealthy and deeply conservative backgrounds and upbringings. He makes them question how they are leading their lives and brings out their individuality; the introvert finds his inner strength, the timid lover finds his courage and the artistic one pursues his dream, but with tragic consequences.
An enjoyable film in many ways. It has a warmth and a fine sense of humour, as well as originality, but it lacks plausibility. Some of the characters are stereotyped and lack nuance. The idea that the boy who wants to act could be the son of the father as portrayed in the film, seems ludicrous. His suicide seems melodramatic.
Some reviewers have also expressed views about the plausibility of the boys' reaction to their teacher, bringing into doubt the wisdom of Robin Williams in the role. They might have a point, although I find Robin Williams acting to be fine. I think that the problem lies more in the script than the acting. Yes, I can believe the introvert boy reacting as he did at the end, but for a lot of the other boys, on whom he has had much less influence, seems a little trite.