Saturday, November 17, 2012

In all honesty I have a slight weakness for 'inspirational teacher' movies. I watched this a few weeks ago and haven't really been able to put it out of my mind. I've ruminated on the reasons why this movie is haunting me and I think I've highlighted a few points but even then they do not seem to encapsulate how I feel about this film.

Dead Poets Society (1989) has a simple premise. Robbin Williams plays the new English teacher at a very traditional boys-only boarding school, John Keating. Keating attended the school as a boy, and wants to breathe in not only new life but to try and bring hope in to a system that demands conformity. As a young man, Keating and his friends had created an underground club called the Dead Poets Society where they would 'suck the marrow out of life'. Inadvertently he inspires members of his class to set up their own Dead Poets Society society - which leads to devastating consequences.

Movies like Dangerous Minds (1995), Freedom Writers (2007), and Coach Carter (2005) all seem as if they should fall in to the same genre as Dead Poets Society, but they don't. Although I enjoyed the others in varying degrees, but there is something more refined about the repression and oppression that we see in Dead Poets Society.

Part of the refinement, in my opinion, is the dignity that Robbin Williams gives to his character. I am a big fan of Williams in more dramatic roles rather than comedic roles, and I loved the range of emotion and depth he was afforded to really emote his character. 

The movie is slow, and at times can be cumbersome, it can even give the impression that it doesn't really know which direction it is going in, but it does, and I guess that is what is most trying and shocking to the audience.

It's the crushing of hope and freedom by conformity and traditions that creates an atmosphere of claustrophobia; this coupled with the scarcity of colour (most of the film features lots of browns, black, whites, and muted natural colours), it's no wonder that the boys and the audience just want to break free. 

The film is haunting because of the hopelessness of the conclusion. Although there is a ray of light in the famous last scene (with the boys standing on the tables), there really is nothing after that, and I honestly felt left out cold, furious at the injustice of it all.

As haunting as this film is (after all, even after a few week I still think of it) I do really love it - and it does what a film is supposed to do and make you remember it.

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