Dead Poets Society – the American film from 1989

Dead Poets Society
Dead Poets Society

Dead Poets Society is a 1989 American film directed by Peter Weir. The film received the Academy Award nominations for Best Director, Best Picture and Best Actor for Robin Williams.  Also the film won numerous awards  including the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The screenplay was written by Tom Schulman.

Dead Poets Society is famous for the actors who gave life to the characters: the great actors as Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke. On the other hand, the film is famous for the approached subject: the role of teachers in educating the students that are placed in their care.

Welton Academy

The action takes place in the fall of 1959, when a new school year begins at Welton Academy. This is an all boys preparatory school. It is considered the best preparatory school in the United States. At the beginning of the film, Mr. Nolan, the headmaster of the prestigious academy, outlines the four pillars of Welton: Tradition, Discipline, Honor and Excellence. 

By implementing these pillars, Welton Academy prepares students for professional success and admission to prestigious universities. Many Welton graduates have been accepted to Ivy League universities.

But in the fall of 1959, the boys who attend Welton Academy are not happy to study here. The school has implemented a strict curriculum, the requirements are high and the sanctions are severe. The teachers do not accept the students’ suggestions. The parents are encouraged not to intervene.

The central theme of the film is the conflict between the conservative leadership of the school and the students who strive to develop their personality. According to the students, the tradition turned into decadence, honor into unrealistic expectations, discipline into terror and perfection into failure.

John Keating – the English teacher who inspires the students with his lessons

Dead Poets Society
The English teacher

John Keating, played by Robin Williams, himself a graduate of this school, is the new teacher of English. He is a charismatic teacher who inspires his students with interesting and fascinating lessons.

“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…  poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” 

Mr. Keating believes that “the idea of educating was to learn to think for yourself.” He teaches the students the works of romantic poets such as Whitman, Thoreau and Lord Byron.

The English teacher draws their attention to the dangers of conformity. Conformism destroys men’s personality, makes them submissive, obedient, humble. He explains them what means to be non-conformist: to be brave, to think critically, to fight against uniformity and to develop their creativity.

What was The Dead Poets Society?

Dead Poets Society Robin Williams
Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams
“You see we’d gather at the old Indian cave and take turns reading from Thoreau, Whitman, Shelley; the biggies. Even some of our own verse… And in the enchantment of the moment we’d let poetry work its magic.”

The Dead Poets Society was the name of a literary club to which Mr. Keating belonged when he was a student at Welton. He and his colleagues met to read the poems of the greatest poets but also to share their own poems.

“Seize the day boys,  make your lives extraordinary.”

The headmaster of Welton Academy, Mr. Nolan is a severe man who does not accept any changes: “The program is established here. It turned out to work.” The lack of communication between the school administration and its students but also the poor communication between the students and their parents make things get out of control.

I hope I have awakened your interest in this film and I invite you to watch it. If you are interested in finding other articles on our site about movies with real life topics, here it is: 3 movies to watch after a breakup.


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