Reel Talk: Dead Poets Society

It’s been a hot minute since I posted anything (that “hot minute” being two years), and I have a new favorite movie (can you guess what it is?)!

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That’s right my dudes, I’m talking about the 1989 cult film, Dead Poets Society.

If you don’t know what a cult film is, it’s a film that has a specific following that isn’t exactly mainstream. When people think of cult films, they often think of movies like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Fight Club, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Pulp Fiction, and Heathers. Of course, there are many more cult films, but the ones I’ve mentioned are some of the better known ones. Maybe you’ve heard of most of them, but you either don’t really know what they’re about or just haven’t seen them.

Dead Poets Society is a movie starring Robin Williams about a group of boys at a prep school trying to make something of themselves. It follows Todd Anderson, who has his older brother’s valedictorian shadow hanging over him, and Neil Perry, a bright and snarky boy trying to breathe under his father’s suffocating hold, along with their friends under the direction of their new English teacher Mr. Keating. Mr. Keating tells them of his time in the Dead Poets Society when he went to school — a secret club dedicated to “suck[ing] the marrow out of life” and reading a lot of poetry. He challenges them to break outside of what confines them, to be free thinkers, to make something of themselves, and to be who they want to be.

This movie is absolutely riddled with beautiful quotes, such as:

“You must strive to find your own voice because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are going to find it at all.”

“There’s a time for daring and a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for.”

“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. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life.” Answer. That you are here — that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

But enough about it being a pretty movie; let’s discuss why it’s important. Dead Poets Society explores love, passion, loss of innocence, coming of age, and many more elements. It’s silly, and it’s sad, and that juxtaposition is so seamless and raw. When it’s silly, one can’t think of how it could be sad, and when it’s sad, we almost forget the silly.

My one complaint? That it’s not also a book. I can’t treasure a movie the way I treasure a book: highlighting lines, collecting editions, leafing through the pages. It certainly seems like it would be an adaptation of a book — perhaps a version of The Catcher in the Rye that isn’t awful (don’t @ me)?

Dead Poets Society is available on Netflix, as well as at our very own library. Check it out, and if you like it, let me know! If you don’t like it, please don’t tell me, because I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.

Until next time, happy reading (or watching, or however you’re procrastinating these days)!

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