By: The Dweeb
This classic Robin Williams film has been reissued, along with Good Morning Vietnam, by Disney in an updated package. If you have the previous version you should definitely upgrade. Once again, we are inspired to “Seize the day” by this group of young boys who are taught by their maverick teacher John Keating to stop and think for themselves. Unfortunately, a staid private school where conformity is the order of the day is not a place to be trying this experiment. These young impressionable teens break out of their shells, and disrupt the school with their bold pranks and piss about everyone off. The experiment ends abruptly when one of them commits suicide, one of the more emotionally trying moments in the film.
This Oscar winning film (Best Screenplay 1990) became an instant classic, at the same time changing career options for Robin Williams as well. No longer saddled as just a comedic actor, he shows in here his ability to act in dramas as well, which also earned him an Oscar nod that same year. Many comedy actors are now following this same path, or at least trying to. His role as Keating is inspiring, and watching him teach class makes me yearn for the days when I was in school and wishing I could have teachers as good as him. Well, I do recall a few, but they were far and few between. He was revolutional in his methods, don’t just do it, think about it! Think different in an era when that was not normal, actually that still resonates today.
His students, who were all excellent in their roles, remind me of my teenage years and how difficult it was to grow up and find your own voice. Director Peter Weir did an excellent job in portraying these young men, you grow attached to them as the film winds on. You experience the many highs and lows as they try to figure out who they are, and what their place is in this world. Everything is going along great, until Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard) takes his own life after his father (Kurtwood Smith) yanks him from the play. No matter how many times I’ve seen this film, I get a little ver klempt every time. You hope that maybe just this once his father won’t be such an A-hole.
This new DVD edition features some improvement over the first edition. The transfer is mostly the same, although this one now contains a 5.1 surround sound track. A big improvement over the original 2.0 no doubt. There are a few bonus features worth watching as well. The retrospective is long, but nice to see some of the actors in a “where are they now” kind of thing. Sadly they did not interview Robin Williams, as it would have been nice to get his perspective. There are no deleted scenes per say, even though they are strongly hinted, but there is a scene which was not used where Keating meets the Dead Poets in the cave. Good thing it wasn’t used, it just didn’t seem to fit. Now if you are a film student, or just curious about some film theory, you might want to watch the mini classes on lighting a scene or a piece on sound editing with Alan Splet.
This movie had a huge impact on audiences, and I think if you haven’t seen it in a while, it will remind you. You won’t walk away without at least thinking about it. This is one of the best films to come out of late eighties, and is something that will stay with us for a long time to come.