It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that movies have impacted us deeply on personal and societal levels. This can be seen in the decline of beach visitors following the release of ‘Jaws’ and the nightmares children and a lot of adults had involving dinosaurs after ‘Jurassic Park’. But some movies hit us deeper in our hearts. They have characters we relate to or those we aspire to become. When we watch these movies, they inspire introspection. One such movie is ‘Dead Poets Society’.
The Oscar-winning screenplay written by Tom Schulman, directed by Peter Weir and with a great performance by Robin Williams at its center, it can be considered a classic which it is but it holds much more than that in its core. It is true that coming-of-age movies have a limited life. It holds an important place in the hearts of the kids who were growing up then. This means that after a decade or two, they become irrelevant. While we do regard ‘Ferris Beuler’s Day Off’ and ‘The Breakfast Club’ as classics we don’t see them the same way a teenager in that day-and-age would. But if given a little bit of thought, they can teach children for centuries. ‘Dead Poets Society’ is one such timeless gem.
It’s the story of a group of students attending a boarding school. But it’s more importantly about the way a teacher shows them how to live a life. The movie accomplishes two simultaneous goals. Firstly, it comments on the education system, the routine lives we accept to live and the pressure that we succumb to. It juxtaposes the banality of the traditional school teachers and their method with our routine lives. The education system is portrayed as a factory to produce well-programmed robots. This is brilliantly shown in the montage of teachers in class near the beginning. And then the barrage of boring lectures is contradicted by the lively conversation that Mr. Keating, played by Robin Williams, inspires. The students, used to the humdrum teaching methods, are awestruck by the stark contrast. But with time, their shock subsides and they ingrain the thoughts he explores. And secondly it brings art and poetry and life in front of the layman and explains its beauty in simple yet effective terms.