Dead Poets Society Blu-Ray Review
Oh Captain! My Captain!
Unlike Good Morning, Vietnam, I actually knew more about Dead Poets Society than this famous line. Dead Poets Society has long held a spot on my list of top films.
Dead Poets Society centers around Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) beginning his first year at a prestigious Welton Academy in 1959 Vermont in the shadow of his older brother, and his roommate Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), who has his own issues with his controlling father. The expectations are that the two become a lawyer and a doctor, respectively, but each develop passion for the liberal arts. The film introduces them to Professor John Keating, an English teacher who encourages them to follow their passions (by seizing the carpe!) and challenge authority, chronicling their time at the Academy as they do just that.
The rich dialogue and the writing of the film are strong points of this emotional drama focusing on the pull between practically and idealism (screenwriter Tom Schulman won the 1989 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay) and each character is decidedly three-dimensional. It doesn’t hurt that almost all of the performances in the film are near flawless. In a rare departure from his norm, Robin Williams’ acting is subtle and understated. He truly shines and demonstrates his versatility. Director Peter Weir does an amazing job bringing all of these components together, and the result is an exceptional film.
The HD transfer here is solid, with vibrant colors during the outdoor autumn scenes and well-rendered blacks throughout much of the rest of this somewhat dark film. Overall, the film has been cleaned up quite well, but there are some scenes that contain noticeable artifacting.
The audio here is presented in Disney’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround. It sounds good, but this is certainly not a film to demonstrate the audio prowess of your home audio system. It’s a relatively quiet movie, and the audio tracks reflect that. This is hardly a fault of the Blu-ray–it’s just an inherent characteristic of the movie.
“Dead Poets: A Look Back,” explains what working with Weir was like from the perspectives of Kurtwood Smith, Ethan Hawke, and other cast members. “Raw Takes” replace deleted scenes, and there are a few of these outtakes. “Master of Sound” and “Cinematography Master Class,” round out the extras, and give insight into the audio and visual style of the film, which were both central to its success as a deeply emotional film.
While these extras are enjoyable, they’re nothing special, nor are they anything new. These were all included in the “Special Edition” DVD release from the late 1990s. In fact, there are actually a number of extras missing that have been included in other releases. Doing something new for the Blu-ray release and/or including all previously-released extras would have been nice, and suggests to me that this will be a prime candidate for future double-dipping.
If you don’t already own Dead Poets Society and want to see it now, this is a good title to purchase. If you already own the DVD and are a super-fan of the film, buy Dead Poets Society Blu-ray. If you’re a current owner or someone who is willing to wait for a more definitive release, I would hold off on purchasing. The audio and video are nice, but the full package is somewhat lacking.
If you’re planning on buying Dead Poets Society, please use the Amazon.com link below. Using the Amazon links here help support DisneyTouristBlog.com, and allow us to continue providing you mediocre (errr…”great”) content.
As a pedant, it is also my duty to be pedantic, and I must point out that Mr. Keating could not encourage his charges to “seize the carpe,” as you write. “Carpe” is the part of the phrase that translates (roughly) as “seize,” so to “seize the carpe” would be to “seize the seize.” Much better to seize the diem, “diem” being the part of the phrase that translates as “day.” The earliest reference to “carpe” seems to come from Horace (not Slughorn) and translates closer to “pluck.”
In any event, sustinebant opus bonum.
“Seize the carpe” is an internet meme.
I, unfortunately, took Latin in college. Despite that, I’m not very good with the language. I’m thinking your last line means “keep up the good work.”
The portrayal of teachers and schools on film has long been of interest to me, from Mr. Chips and Miss Jean Brodie right up through Mr. Hector (“History Boys”) and the brilliantly depicted faculty of Hogwarts. Mr. Keating of “Dead Poets Society” holds a special place in the canon, and, when I first saw “Dead Poets” upon its release in 1989 (the same year I started teaching), I was utterly entranced. The haunting bagpipe music and the autumnal color palette are lovely. The film draws you in slowly and subtly, gradually raising questions about the influence of a charismatic teacher, about the price non-conformists pay in a conformist society, about the transitory nature of our existence, and about the central importance of the humanities in subverting that situation. In this respect it is a film about transcendence, about the ways in which people and ideas live beyond their time, be they through influence of an inspiring teacher or the work of a great poet. One of the most sublime moments is easy to miss: when Mr. Keating is about to be fired, through the window he sees Mr. McAllister, the Latin teacher, who has taken a group of students outdoors, most uncharacteristic of the conservative teacher, and a clear sign that Mr. Keating’s influence will continue and not just among students. It is Mr. McAllister’s “standing on the desk” moment, and it is quite inspiring.
Since I am writing under the pseudonym of Horace Slughorn this morning, allow me to mention that I once worked with the son of the headmaster of the private school where the movie was filmed (in Delaware-though the setting of the story is Vermont, my own great and unbelievably beautiful home state). He was an incredibly horrible person, as apparently was his father before him. I mention this not just to honor the name-dropping persona of Professor Slughorn, but also because another important theme of “Dead Poets” and a recurring theme of “school movies” is the role of the school administrator (principal, headmaster) in ridding (or trying to rid) the school of a beloved, non-conformist, non-traditional teacher, destroying that teacher’s career and robbing future students of the teacher’s influence. The chances of a great teacher surviving in this genre is about equal to a little child making it alive to the end of a Dickens novel: not good odds. Oh, how they fall: Miss Jean Brodie, Conrack, Mr. Hector, Professor Lupin, and on it goes. It’s a situation I have seen in real life and one that we, now living in a school-world ruled by standardized tests, conformity, and a supreme dedication to mediocrity, would do well to note and fear.
Wait…you’ve been using PSEUDONYMS?!?
Very interesting. I had suspected many portrayals of headmasters, teachers, etc. in prep-school environments was pretty accurate. Having been subjected to standardized tests for the last 20-some years of my life (from K-12 ones to the ACT, SAT, LSAT, etc.), I’m well aware of their stature. Quite unfortunate.
My wife is a nurse; I can confirm that Nurse Ratched is an accurate representation of nurses, too! 😉