A coming-of-age drama that is both funny and tragic.Directed by Peter Weir, the drama is based on a novel by Nancy H. Kleinbaum.
This movie stars Robin Williams as John Keating; Ethan Hawke as Todd Anderson, and Robert Sean as Neil Perry.
Having won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and Two BAFTAs, the movie goes on to break conventional realms and dares to be extraordinary. Even after 33 years of its release, this poetic drama is a timeless classic.
The story revolves around a group of students attending a preparatory boarding school. But more importantly, it’s about a charismatic poetry teacher named John Keating who teaches students how to live. The plot is set in the fifties at Welton Academy, which is an all-boys school.
This drama captures two major problems in the lives of teenagers simultaneously,
Firstly, it comments on the education system, the routine lives we accept to live, and the pressure that we succumb to. And secondly, how to live life to the fullest.
Robin Williams was an actor who pushed elegance into dramatic roles and had surprisingly deep integrity. This cohesion carried over to his performance as the fascinating Mr. Keating, who teaches poetry with uncommon zeal.
His methods of teaching are unconventional and revolutionary. Keating demands his students rip the pages of books he finds unnecessary. His lessons are a reminder of the inescapable disparities of life we are stuck in, and how the arts, literature, and poetry are the basis of humanity, which is the basis of humane existence. From giving odes to Walt Whitman on desk tops to impersonating Marlon Brando, Keating’s methods are exemplary and unmatched. Keating connects with the phrase “carpe diem,” which means to seize the day.
One of these days, the students discover the “Dead Poets Society,” which was a secret society while Keating was himself a student. The boys re-establish this society and swoon under the euphoria of poetry, beauty, and the arts.
Death holds sway over the drama. However, it is pertinent to the central theme and remains inevitable for mortals: what it means to live a human life, to be a human being—an attempt fuelled by literary works of all ages.
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, and engineering, are noble pursuits that are necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, and love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman: “Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring, / the endless trains of the faithless, of cities filled with the fools. . . . What good amid these, O me, O life? / Answer. That you are here—that life exists and identity, / That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” . . . What will your verse be?”
The movie draws inspiration from various movements and poets of the preceding century, the romantics, including Blake, Shelley, and Keats; the transcendentalists, most importantly Walt Whitman, who is an idealistic figure in the movie.
This resurgence of this classic is evident in contemporary discussion and analysis of symbolist literature in screenplays. The youth floating by on a sea of anguish with no metaphorical ray of hope is both agonising and enthralling.Mr. John Keating is remembered as Robin Williams’ most influential performance and has left an enduring legacy to be bequeathed by generations.
“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”