By Shayla Scallorn
Social Media Editor
Seven straight-laced boys attending a prestigious preparatory school quickly take a liking to their new English teacher who offers them a new perspective on individuality, life and the value of literature. The 128 minute drama "Dead Poets Society" directed by Peter Weir will not only heave at your heart strings but leave you questioning society and contemplating the true power of literature.
Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard) is an outgoing and motivated young man placed on a career path towards medicine by his overbearing father. Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) is painfully shy, struggles socially and is under constant pressure to live up to his successful older brother’s name.
Neil, Todd and their group of friends are all students at Welton Academy for boys set in 1956 New England. The school's four pillars (tradition, honor, discipline and excellence) stress the importance of a strict, uniform-learning environment. It is essentially a breeding ground for the nation’s future doctors, lawyers and scientists.
John Keating (former alumni of Welton) played by the late Robin Williams is hired to teach English. He catches his students' attention when on the first day of class begins by bluntly stating that everyone in the room would one day "stop breathing, turn cold and die." It's here his mantra "carpe diem" (seize the day) is introduced.
Keating connects with the boys through unwonted teaching methods that greatly contradict the school’s four pillars and focus on conformity. From tearing textbook pages, standing on desks and lessons loaded with satire, Neil, Todd and the others are opened up to the beauty of poetry, ideas of free thinking, and the importance of following one's own path in life.
"Dead Poet Society" is often criticized for having a predictable plot and underdeveloped characters, however I feel as though this was done intentionally. The film carried many powerful messages, particularly the greater connection between life and literature. Adding too many details to the characters and plot would take away from the focus the filmmakers clearly wanted to put on these life lessons.
The film is meant to tell the simple story of seven young men, changed forever by an unorthodox teacher who added color to their black and white lives. It is an absolute 'must see' for anyone who loves to be left thinking by the end of a movie, and particularly those with an appreciation for the written word.
As a writer, this film resonated with me because it stressed that literature is much more than words on a page. In the wise words of Mr. Keating: "Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are all noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, love... These are what we stay alive for."
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