“Seize the day, gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” That’s the message of this amazing movie.
The Setting – the stereotypical strict, prestigious
The Catch – Mr. Keating (Robin Williams), a new teacher who’s gonna shake things up
This movie has stood the test of time because it’s easy to relate to the plot and the lovable characters. (With the exception of Cameron) The message of the film is to live each day to the fullest and to think for yourself, these are universal themes which won’t easily die between generations. The film doesn’t have the same hokey feel as some of the other 80’s teen movies we’ve watched, but it does have the two major themes occurring in those other movies. It has the teens, led by their captain, rebelling against the administration, and it also has the importance of friendship.
The film develops nicely, showing us the kids learning to accept Mr. Keating’s new philosophy and living their lives accordingly. We see them in the beginning, going through their boring, uniform classes and then entering into Keating’s class. They have no idea what to do with him at first, a strange teacher who whistles, asks to be called “Oh Captain, My Captain”, and has them rip pages out of a textbook, “It’s not the Bible, you’re not going to go to hell for this.” As the movie goes on they not only accept his ideas, but dive headfirst into them, following in his footsteps and recreating the Dead Poet’s Society. The boys each get something new out of his teachings; Neil decides to finally do something because he wants to do it, auditions for a play and gets the lead without his father’s permission; Charlie/Nuwanda uses the new confidence to rebel against the school’s policies and standing up for the man who has given him this new outlook; Knox is able to approach a girl he likes and has the confidence to read a poem to her and ask her out; Todd goes through a great change because of Keating’s persistent encouragement and Neil’s death so that he is able to stand up for what he believes in and leads the class in giving Mr. Keating a final salute. This movie works because it does not forsake the world outside of their enlightened group; their parents are more in the picture than in any of the other 80’s films, and not in a positive way. Their parents all want them to go in a certain direction, often forcing them into a field of study, and as in Neil’s case there are tragic consequences when the parents’ wishes are not carried out.
I love this movie for the story, the actors, and the passion which drives it. Robin Williams gives a brilliant performance as do the boys, all working off of each other creating great dynamics. While people may consider the ending to be too extreme or over the top, I think it can be justified with the plotline leading up to it. Neil was constantly restricted by his father, he learned to open his mind and think for himself, and just when he’s comfortable with who he is and has found something he’s passionate about he’s once again restrained. He sadly feels he has no way out and decides to end things. This event is a turning point because it is when the boys’ true colors come out with the administration blaming Mr. Keating for Neil’s death. Cameron is shown to not have understood anything, Nuwanda lets out his anger by punching him, Todd gains the courage to stand up to authority giving Mr. Keating a heartfelt goodbye, and the others follow suit. I would recommend this movie to anyone because it is truly great.