Peter Weir’s entry in the "coming of age" teen movie genre, Dead Poets’ Society is a more than usually emotive tale of one teacher and the students he inspires. Robin Williams plays the radical English teacher in a stuffy New England prep school who tries to make a difference. His unconventional methods and love of poetry make him a hit with the repressed teens under his tutelage, and they in turn form a secret society for the pursuit of freedom, truth, beauty and other bohemian ideals. Much soul-searching ensues, not least from the doe-eyed Neil (Robert Sean Leonard) whose sensitive aspirations to pursue a career in the theatre are scuppered by his prosaic father with tragic consequences.
True, the script is clichéd at times and the battle between adults and teens is hackneyed, but no one can deny the emotional power of the "Captain My Captain" scene, where the class defiantly stand on their desks, or the moment when Williams inspires his class with the motto "Carpe Diem". Indeed it is the relationship between Williams and his pupils that enables Weir to raise the film above what could have been over-sentimental slosh, with Williams’ trademark improvised monologues injecting humanity (even in a relatively serious role) into the central character. The result is an inspirational story that stands up to repeat viewings.
On the DVD: Dead Poets’ Society is anamorphically enhanced for this special edition and the changing seasons of New England are beautifully recreated with rich earthy tones dominating the location scenes. Special attention has been paid to the audio track with the dialogue crisp and clear throughout. Extras are good, including retrospective interviews with cast and crew in the "Scrapbook" feature, an unedited scene that was originally part of a planned montage, the trailer and a couple of featurettes, both dealing with the technical aspects of the shoot. There’s also an audio commentary from director Weir, John Seale and screenwriter Tom Schulman.