Saturday, September 22, 2007

"Dead Poets Society" (1989)

"Carpe Diem, Seize The Day!"

In the classic tradition of teen movies, Dead Poets Society blatantly draws the lines between teens and the adults who don't understand them. At Welton Academy for Boys, students are placed under the equivalent of "house arrest" as conformity rules their every move. New English teacher, John Keating (Robin Williams), disrupts the lives of Neal Perry (House), Charlie Dalton aka Nuwanda, Knox Overstreet (Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead), Todd Anderson (a very young Ethan Hawke), Pitts, and Meeks and urges them to experience life by seizing the day! Keating's unorthodox teaching style seems strange to the young men at first--as when he instructs them to tear out the Preface of their Poetry textbooks. Quickly the boys realize that Keating's lessons not only apply to the classroom but in the real world as well. Discovering Keating's old annual, the boys also learn about the Dead Poets Society and resurrect their own version. Breaking out of their prep school shells, the students invite Keating's words of wisdom--"words and ideas can change the world", and humor (with classic Robin Williams impersonations of Marlon Brando's Julius Caesar and more) and apply them to their own lives: chasing girls, pursuing acting, playing instruments, writing and reciting personal poems, drinking, smoking, and thinking for themselves. "Free thinkers at seventeen?" Welton faculty asks sarcastically, unable to fathom such a preposterous idea.

The main character, Neal reads/quotes Thoreau: “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die Discover that I had not lived." Taking this quote to heart, Neal defies his stern father, trying to live his own life not the one his father has set out for him. The tragedy of Neal's character is overshadowed by the vibrancy of youth thanks to the inspiration of his faithful friends, especially Mr. Keating, who they all refer to respectfully as "Oh, Captain, My Captain (Walt Whitman)." Although Robin Williams is best known for his outrageous humor, his most incredible work has been dramas. Dead Poets Society is The Good Will Hunting of the 80s. Check out the trailer:

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