The Dead Poets' Society is a film about conflict and passion. It is set in a Vermont school, Welton Academy and the scenes largely involve the teacher, Professor John Keating and his students.
The story starts out as a bright young, but shy student Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) is sent to a religious boarding school where there is little room for other than academic struggle. He arrives in his room where he meets his roommate Neil Perry who is a bright and mischievous youth who can't escape from the critical and oppressive eye of his father. The two of them, along with the rest of their friends form a tight bond with their English teacher, Mr. Keating (Robin Williams).
Robin Williams is well cast as the independent, passionate, and caring teacher. Keating is a man who teaches because he loves to teach. He gives more than just knowledge to his students.
He inspires them. He urges them to "seize the day,"ÃÂ to seek out their dreams and to believe in themselves. His teaching techniques are unconventional and appeal to the boys' imaginations. He earns their respect and becomes their friend and mentor. Largely driven by a sense of tradition, the school imposes out-dated teaching techniques on both its teachers and its students. The students are encouraged to mindlessly take in facts and regurgitate them on command. The teachers are expected to teach according to a rigid set of rules. Keating believes that education requires the student to think for himself. He must be free to question and to learn in the way that he learns best. Few schools accept this basic premise and Welton Academy is no exception. Keating rejects tradition and refuses to teach by the old methods. The school refuses to accept change. And so the battle begins.
Each student also has his own personal battle to wage. And one student in particular, Neil, is faced with a very unfair choice. The conflict between Neil and his father make for some infuriating scenes. His father is a very dominant man who does not allow Neil to decide his own future, resulting in a tragic outcome. I would have liked to see Neil triumph over his father and leave home to pursue his dream. This is probably the only part of the movie that I think could have been different. But I did like the fact that the director didn't follow today's Hollywood hero loses the battle but graciously triumphs over evil at the end. He told the story as if were true, with no sugar coatings at all.
This film has to be seen. It is well made, well cast and extremely moving. It would be difficult to find a more inspiring movie. I highly recommend that you see it.