Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Wednesday Review: Dead Poets Society

And I’m back with Wednesday Reviews, it has been far too long since I’ve updated the blog on a regular basis, and even longer since I posted a review. So I’m here to start again with a great film titled Dead Poets Society.

Dead Poets Society Title Card
Dead Poets Society was released in 1989 (almost one month before I was born in fact!) and stars Robin Williams as the title character, John Keating (Reference to the poet Geoffrey Keating perhaps?). The film, set in the 1950s, tells the tale about a group of teenagers who meet their new English teacher (Williams) and are inspired by him to challenge the status quo. Carpé diem! Seize the day boys! Make your lives extraordinary! The first time I ever watched the film was in my grade 12 Writer’s Craft class. I got so into the film I forgot that we were watching it and thought I was actually a part of it. So when it came to the climactic ending (which I won’t spoil for those of you who haven’t seen it) I shouted out at the television in concern for the character. This of course resulted in the entire class telling me to shut up and myself apologetically saying “Sorry, I got really into the movie”. When moments like that occur, and you find yourself submersed in the fictional word, forgetting it is only a film, you know you’ve got a good movie. Anyway, enough of my personal introduction to the film, on with the review!

Review after the break.

The film opens with the opening ceremony at an all-male academy. Bagpipes are being played as a troupe enters the church hall. We’re shown several shots of students during this scene. Some of them are important, others, not so much. From the speech given by the dean (I assume it’s the dean, I’ll find out later in the film) we can tell this is a very strict school that only the richest can afford to send their sons to. It’s clear that all students in the school must strive to be the best they can be academically or else they will be seen with shame. Lastly, we’re introduced to the new teacher at the school, Professor Keating, who graduated from the school and was a successful teacher at another highly educated school. We’re given the impression he will be much like the other teachers, but it’s Robin Williams, so I’m inclinded to think differently.

Kurtwood Smith better call someone a dumbass in this!

When all the parents are saying goodbye to their kids, we’re shown one kid crying and saying “I don’t want to go here.” This does not bode well.

Yep, Kurtwood Smith is in another Red Foreman roll. Well, I guess this one came first, so ... erm ... ah well, I stand by what I said.

Red Foreman, er, I mean, Kurtwood Smith.
It seems that Smith’s son Neil Perry (played by Robert Sean Leonard) will be the primary student of this film.

Urg ... this is why I hated high school, you had to take all the subjects, even the ones you hated or were terrible at. And this film takes that to the extreme.

12 minutes in and we’re already given one of the most memorable lines of the entire film. “Oh captain my captain!” And Walt Whitman poetry sales soar because films have that effect on the universe.

And one minute later we’re introduced to the other famous line. Carpé diem, seize the day!

Good touch, how many of the students in the old photographs look like several of the students in Keating’s class. A good allusion to what their futures have in store for them; and at the same time, a reflection on the past, and how things have not changed.

Keating teaching them a different kind of class then
they're used to.
After watching a few scenes in Keating’s class, it should be noted that we need to pay close attention to Perry. After his father tells him he has to drop his extracurricular for the school newspaper, he is saddened, but brushes it off when his friends confront him about it. When Keating starts to open up Perry’s eyes to what the world or poetry can be all about, we can see a hope glimmer in his eyes. We can see that poetry, or something similar to it, is where his heart lies, not where his father wants it to be. This is something that many people can relate to, myself included.

Man, what is Keating always whistling in this movie? I recognise the tune but can’t quite place it. This is going to bug me.

They reform Keating’s old club the Dead Poets Society and the amount of poetry, both classic and original, comes out in these meetings. There is so much depth and detail to this, it reaches out and speaks to my soul. This is one of the best things about this film; the amount of poetry that pours from this. It makes me wish I was able to write poetry.

When Perry gets the part in A Midsummer’s Night Dream he is so excited it explodes from him in waves of overpowering emotions and everyone is affected by this. This is fantastic acting on his part, and a fantastic way to show people that you need to follow your dreams, to do what you desire, not to do what other people tell you you should do.

An appropriate last line of a play for the film.
Almost halfway through the film, Keating helps Perry’s roommate Todd Anderson to overcome his fear of public speaking. That’s one down on the path to seize the day, and now we await the rest of the class to follow suit.

“Conformity, the difficulty in maintaining your own belief in the face of others.” I believe we just heard the main theme.

Once again, like the times before, as the movie progresses I find myself getting more and more enveloped in the film.

Perry clearly lied to Keating about telling his father about his passion for acting, and Keating knows he’s lying. Just something I felt needed to be addressed, it will come back to him. Karma.

Ah A Midsummer’s Night Dream ... I was in that play once ... Snug the Joiner ... I had, like, five lines or something. Those are the good old days.

The ending is so much worse when you know what’s coming. And by worse I mean painful, not poor bad.
To Be Read At The Opening of D.P.S. Meetings.

I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately ...
I wanted to live deep and suck out the marrow of life!
To put to rest all that was not life ...
And not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived ...

The ending is one emotional moment after another, and I will admit to crying during it. The film ends with a very powerful impact. The entire film leads up to a specific point at the end and it goes over extraordinarily well. The impact it leaves is powerful and that alone gives great reason for this film to be noted as a great film. The acting is superb, Robin Williams avoids his usual comedic style for a very serious and well played part, and the other roles are just as good. The story is emotionally driven, with enough side plots to keep it interesting but not overcrowd the main plot and message. The primary characters are well developed, each having their own unique personality and drive. The camera work, however, is standard Hollywood style with nothing interesting to show.

9/10 Oh captain, my captain.

Oh captain, my captain!

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