Critic’s Corner Columnist
“Dead Poets Society,” a 1989 film, follows the story of multiple students at an all-boys preparatory school and their new English teacher, John Keating (Robin Williams). While his students feel pressure from school and their parents, Keating reaches out to them through his methods of teaching.
The beginning of this film sets the contrast between the stiff and stuffy school atmosphere and the lighthearted but meaningful teaching style of Mr. Keating. It shows all the more the importance of what he is teaching, which is more than just poetry and English.
Keating’s lessons represent the conflict of the film: to either live in conformity, the life set out for you, or to live your life to the fullest. Yet, unlike some life lessons that tend to be heavy, both the dialogue and Robin Williams’ performance allows the film to be lighthearted despite the subjects discussed.
The film finds a way to unite humor and meaning. It uses humor to present priceless life lessons and to lift its audience up in a way few have succeeded at doing, making the film more beautiful and enjoyable because of this. It will have you laughing, thinking and inspired at the same time.
The interaction between the students, all young men, further adds to the humor of the film. They tease each other, laugh together and inspire one another. The way it is written and performed creates a feeling of peace and contentment.
Watching them reform the school’s Dead Poets Society and seeing their struggles allows whomever is watching to have an invested interest in their lives and holds their attention. Their interaction creates waves or levels of emotion and energy, making the film come alive in front of the audience.
However, what sets the “Dead Poets Society” movie apart from many films, and makes it a very enjoyable one, is the lessons with humor it holds within its runtime. Keating begins his first day of teaching at the school with the fact we will all one day die and urges his students to “seize the day.”
The creators of the film intended for Keating to not only say that to his students but also to each one of us: to live each of our lives with the realization that we will one day no longer live in this world. Keating does this not in a dreary way but in an inspiring way, urging those alive to live their life before they pass from this world.
This is the primary lesson the film gives and from this also gives some of the necessary steps to accomplish the lesson, one of which is carving your own path. The students often have their lives shaped and lived for them and spend their time in conformity, never having their own voice.
The students, as well as the audience, are urged to live otherwise, to “find your own voice” and not be afraid to stand alone with your beliefs, to go against the grain and think for yourself. This is one of the many lessons amazingly woven in with humor in the dialogue.
This is the main charm of the film: it touches the heart and speaks to the mind. It speaks to each person individually through the words spoken and the lives of the students. It is a masterpiece of film by the peace and inspiration which flows from scene to scene, leaving the audience captivated in that peace.
Like many Robin Williams films, “Dead Poets Society” is filled with beauty and meaning; with many things to take to heart as each of us live our lives. May this film be remembered as it should be and may the meaning the creators put into the film be lived out in each person’s life.