In an age defined by crew cuts, sport coats, and cheerless conformity, he not only broke the mold ... he reinvented it. Academy Award(R) winner Robin Williams (Best Supporting Actor, GOOD WILL HUNTING, 1997) delivers an ex... more »traordinary performance in one of the most compelling motion pictures of all time. Williams stars as English professor John Keating, a passionate iconoclast who changes his students' lives forever when he challenges them to live life to the fullest and "Carpe Diem" -- seize the day! Keating's unconventional approach meets with irrepressible enthusiasm from his students, but the faculty at staid, exclusive Welton Academy prep school is, to put it mildly, not amused. Featuring a star-marking performance by Ethan Hawke and over three hours of never-before-seen bonus materials, this Special Edition of DEAD POETS SOCIETY will captivate and inspire you again and again.« less
"And what will your verse be in the poem of life?"
Themis-Athena | from somewhere between California and Germany | 09/03/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
""I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." (Henry David Thoreau, "Walden.")
Hands up folks, how many of us discovered Thoreau after having watched this movie? *Really* discovered I mean, regardless whether you had known he'd existed before. How many believe they know what Thoreau was talking about in that passage about "sucking the marrow out of life" cited in the movie, even if you didn't spend the next 2+ years of your life living in a self-constructed cabin on a pond in the woods? How many bought a copy of Whitman's poems ... whatever collection? (And maybe even read more than "Oh Captain! My Captain!"?) How many went on to read Emerson? Frost? Or John Keats, on whose personality Robin Williams's John Keating is probably losely based? Judging by the vast majority of the reviews on this site alone, you just can't fail to notice that this movie has a powerful appeal like few others; "inspirational" is probably the most frequently used word in the opinions represented here. And justifiedly so, despite the fact that charismatic Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), one of the movie's main characters, tragically falters in the pursuit of his dreams, in the wake of apparent triumph. Because although Neil's story is one of failure, ultimately this movie is a celebration of the triumph of free will, independent thinking and the growth of personality; embodied in its closing scene.
Of course, lofty goals such as these are not easily achieved. Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) in particular, the last scene's triumphant hero, is literally pushed to the edge of reason before he learns to overcome his inhibitions. And Thoreau said in "Walden:" "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; That is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." Anyone who takes this movie's message to heart (and Thoreau's, and Whitman's, and Emerson's, Frost's and Keats's) knows that success too easily won is often no success at all, and most of our truly important accomplishments are based on focus, tenacity and hard work as much as on anything else. And prudence, too ... dashing Charlie Dalton (Gale Hansen) pays a high price for his spur-of-the-moment challenges of authority; although of course you just gotta love him for refusing to sign Keating's indictment. "Carpe diem" - live life to its fullest, but always know what you are doing, too.
You won't enjoy this movie if you are afraid of letting your mind and your feelings run free. Shot on the magnificent location of Delaware's St. Andrews Academy, "Dead Poets' Society" is visually stunning, particularly in its depiction of the amazingly beautiful scenery (where the progression of the seasons mirrors the progression of the movie's story line), and it is as emotionally engaging as it invites you to mentally reexamine your position in life. Robin Williams delivers another Academy Award-worthy performance (he was nominated but unfortunately didn't win). Of course, Robin Williams will to a certain extent always be Robin Williams ... "Aladdin's" Genie, "Good Morning Vietnam's" Adrian Cronauer and "Good Will Hunting's" Professor McGuire (the 1997 role which would finally earn him his long overdue Oscar) all shimmer through in his portrayal of John Keating; and if you've ever seen him give an interview you know that the man can go from hilarious and irreverent to deeply reflective in a split second even when it's not a movie camera that's rolling. Yet, the black sheep among Welton Academy's teachers assumes as distinct and memorable a personality as any other one of Williams's film characters.
Of its many Academy Award nominations (in addition to Robin Williams's nomination for best leading actor, the movie was also nominated in the best picture, best director [Peter Weir] and best original screenplay categories), "Dead Poets' Society" ultimately only won the Oscar for Tom Schulman's script. But more importantly, it has long since won it's viewers' lasting appreciation, and for a reason. - As the Poet said: "Camerado! This is no book; Who touches this, touches a man" (Walt Whitman, "So Long!"), this is no movie; who watches this, watches himself!
Also recommended: Good Will Hunting (Miramax Collector's Series) A Midsummer Night's Dream (The New Folger Library Shakespeare) Henry David Thoreau : Collected Essays and Poems (Library of America) Whitman: Poetry and Prose (Library of America College Editions) Robert Frost: Collected Poems, Prose, and Plays (Library of America) John Keats: The Complete Poems (Penguin Classics)"
R. DelParto | Virginia Beach, VA USA | 01/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"No matter how many times I watch a particular movie, certain ones have a way of moving me. Dead Poets Society was one of them. It was the most influential film I had ever watched, and the only one that I could relate to directly and indirectly.
Robin Williams plays the English teacher, John Keating, who brings enthusiasm to the classroom of young scholars whose only sense of fun is spending time together in their study groups. But his method of teaching was rather unconventional. Keating did not conduct an in your face way of teaching, and nor did he spoon feed the boys in his class. Keating suggests to the students that in any formal environment, there is the strict expectation that one follows the straight and narrow, and free thinking is the antagonist where there should not exist any curves or turns. He simply opens the minds of the students who only thought that going to prep school was the easiest way to get to Harvard. And in essence, the main gist of the film has to do with, no matter what direction in life one takes, poetry is the path to expression.
This movie was high with emotions and of course relationships. I particularly thought Ethan Hawke's performance was very convincing. If you've ever been a situation like Hawke's character, you would know what I mean; watch the movie and you'll understand. Also, the relationship between Robert Sean Leonard's character and his father was very realistic of a person who's dying to break free from parental influence.
As in any movie depicting honor and respect (School Ties and Scent of a Woman), someone suffers the consequences, but no one is left standing alone. In the case of Dead Poets Society, the circle of friendship that existed between the students became a hard lesson. The film makes a good of emphasizing that those whom you thought were invincible, turned out to be less of your expectations, and the movie was good at presenting that scenario.
If you like a movie that doesn't preach to you, but nourishes your mind with words to ponder, or words of encouragement, I recommend Dead Poets Society."
Be careful if you want the Director's cut
Paul P. Heffernan | 12/01/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Be careful about the label 'Special Edition' if you are still waiting, like me, for the fabulous Director's cut that was released on laser disk but not on DVD. It contains essential extra footage added by Peter Weir that fleshes out the motivations behind many of the characters and answers some questions that the theatrical cut raises. The Director's cut is 142 minutes so this DVD is just a re-release of the original theatrical version."
"Special Edition" is Less Special Than it Could Be
Robert A. Bimson | Napa, CA United States | 01/11/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I just received the "Special Edition" and was disappointed. The reviewer who advised caution was correct-this is just the same version with a few "bonus" features. The "Deleted Scenes" or "Raw" footage contains only the couple of minutes of Keating meeting the boys at the cave after Neil's performance. The version shown on USA (I haven't seen the Laser Disk Director's Cut) containing the extra footage of Knox's dinner at Danbury's and meeting Ginny Danbury, the scene rehearsing near the lake, the boys being assigned their extracurricular activities are all missing. The original script called for Knox and Chris to kiss near the frozen waterfall after the Keating-led meeting. That's not here, either. Too bad - those scenes really tie up the story much better."
"I can feel it...this desk set wants to fly!"
Julia Flyte | 01/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I Love DPS. It's my favorite film, and, I think, one of the best made in my lifetime (30 years). During my own boarding school days, it was life-altering. So, I got the new Special Edition, assuming it would be the director's cut. I remember once seeing it on television, about 20 mins longer. Not so. They included one cut scene (in the bonus stuff) which was supposed to be intercut with the suicide scene (and mercifully, wasn't).
The interviews with the actors were odd. Ethan Hawke was a tad flaky -- he called Robert Sean Leonard "Terry" (his character's name in the Hawke-directed Chelsea Walls) He also was mysteriously unclear on where they were staying during filming -- "We were staying at a Radisson -- or maybe it wasn't, but something like that -- in Dover. No, New Castle. No, it definitely wasn't New Castle. Dover? I don't know where it was." (It was New Castle, according to the credits. But why wasn't this monolouge of uncertainity cut out?) RSL didn't have much to say for himself, considering the importance of his role. They talked to Dylan Kussman (Cameron), Allelon Ruggiero (Meeks), Kurtwood Smith (Mr. Perry), Norman Lloyd (Mr. Nolan), who was very Mr. Nolan-ish ("They wanted ME to audition! I had been on St. Elsewhere! _I_ wasn't going to audition!") and oddly, Melora Walters (One-Line Townie Girl, Gloria), who was rather annoying. Obviously, Robin Williams was conspicuously absent, and I would have liked to see Gale Hansen (Charlie) and Josh Charles (Knox). The only interesting information was that RSL and Ethan wrote the desk set scene themselves, because what the script called for wasn't working.
Then I watched the feature with commentary by Peter Weir (who was interesting), the cinematographer, and the screenwriter who was quite irritating. In the original script Keating was supposed to have cancer, and die at the end. He kept referring to him as being sick/dying, without explaining that was an earlier version of the script. Also, although he said Neil was based on his best friend, and Welton was what his school (private, but a day school) wanted to be, he neglected to say that Keating was based on an English teacher (Samuel Pickering, now a professor at University of Connecticut) he had at school. Perplexing.
All in all, if you have the regular DVD, don't bother buying the special edition. So disappointing. Also, I had the distinct impression from the film commentary that it was meant for the 10-yr anniversary. Wonder what the hold-up was? The bonus material here wants to fly like a desk set and instead falls with a resounding thud."