It has been 29 years since the release of this movie, yet each and every quote by Walt Whitman expressed by the brilliant Robin William doesn’t fail to inspire us. ‘Dead Poets Society, released on June 2, 1989, an American Drama film written by Tom Schulman and directed by Peter Weir, made its mark by ensuring that the phrase ‘Oh Captain! My Captain!’ remains etched in our minds till the present day. Starring Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, Josh Charles, Gale Hansen and many more, this movie has many iconic scenes that make us not only develop an interest in poetry but also ponder over our approach towards life.
The story revolves around a group of young boys of Welton Academy, a boarding school which follows a very staunch and stringent education system. Mr. John Keating, played by Robin Williams, an alumnus of the school joins as an English poetry teacher and inspires young boys in various aspects of life through his unorthodox teaching. Discovering that Keating was a part of Dead Poets Society, the students re-introduce the group according to which they would gather in a cave, read poetry and put forth their own compositions as well. The students face various ups and downs as they struggle to follow the ideals of freethinking which has a positive and a negative toll on their lives. The movie is a perfect mix of comedy, youth, romance and tragedy thus, making it very convincing and engaging.
All the young actors flawlessly expressed their characters thus making the movie an iconic one.
The movie touches upon various themes associated with ideas of freethinking and establishing oneself as unique. Seizing the day or Carpe Diem is frequently showcased by the characters. From a literature point of view, we can see a war between Romanticism and Realism which is expressed through Keating and the headmaster Mr. Nolan. Realism reflects being in touch with reality and accuracy whereas Romanticism, as encouraged by Keating, consists of love, passion, imagination, things by which the human race survives. The idea of Keating and a cave can be seen as an escape from reality by the students, who dress up in black cloaks to walk out in the dead of night as they yearn to do what their heart wants to. Even the portrayal of Puck, a character from a play by a Romantic playwright William Shakespeare also establishes the ideals of being a free thinker thus Neil’s father’s attempt to burden his son leading to the tragic end shows the clashing differences. The movie is also a comment on the deteriorating education system which enforces students to follow limited goals and pushes them away from art. The students worrying about group study and carrying a bundle of books at the beginning itself is a satire about the loopholes. Moreover, the scapegoating of Keating, in the end, shows the lengths to which authority attempts to hide its mistakes. The helplessness of the students gives us a very bleak image of the future yet the way they salute Keating as he leaves gives a glimmer of hope of a possible change. The youth in the movie can be seen as suppressed, lost, burdened yet still having a positive outlook and determination towards finding a solution to their problems. Most importantly, the relevance of the movie till the present day makes it a masterpiece because it’s a constant reminder to us of the erroneous approach we are taking towards educating today’s generation.
The setup of the movie was a perfectly foreboding boarding school in Delaware which gave an essence of strict rules and regulations. Surprisingly, the cave in the movie was not a real one but a set made up of latex, however, the location, Wolf cave in Delaware was accurate.
This movie is for sure is an emotional roller-coaster ride as it will inspire anyone, let it be a child, a teenager or an adult. It’s a must watch as it will definitely teach you how to ‘live deep and suck the marrow out of life’.
RATING – 5/5
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Albeena Alvi – Gargi College,DU