Dead Poets Society was released in 1989, a unique period where millennials are still able to remember it and hold nostalgia for it, but old enough to still be considered something of a modern classic. It helps that the film looks very old, like it was shot on 35mm film that was left in the sun too long, giving it a vintage feel. I’m not sure if director Peter Weir was specifically trying to create that effect, but it it makes his film feel like a living memory, fading every time we remember it, almost creating a need to watch it every couple of years or it would wither and fade away.
This of course is not true, it’s on Netflix and will surely be accessible as long as audiences still care for Robin Williams. But the older lool makes everything feel more distanced and therefore less relatable and powerful. We follow a group of prep school boys they become entranced by their English teacher (Williams) passionate, unconventional teaching approach. They fall in love with poetry and even reinstate an old society where they read passages of poems in a cave in the woods.
It’s really idealistic stuff, and while its message on the importance of thr languages is necessary, it feels too far removed. Everyone in the film is white (its a prep school after all) and its hard to care about their worries too much. The performances are grand, particularly from nebbish Ethan Hawke and of course Williams, but it isn’t too powerful. It’s not so much escapism as the memory of escapism years ago. It’s worth a watch but you won’t be singing o captain my captain anytime soon.