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Dead Poets Society: study notes

Today was a long and stressful day on the set of the making of the film Dead Poets Society. The director would not rest until the scenes being shot were perfect in the director’s eyes. He described these scenes as “instrumental” in emphasizing the themes of tradition and conformity in contrast with the opposing themes of self expression and free thinking.

The director chose to include several shots of birds taking flight in formation Prior to the commence of the academic year.

The visuals of the birds flying in perfect formation is a metaphor for how the school operates. The Camera cuts from the shots of the birds to the students filing down the stairs towards their first classes in single file. This deliberate comparison of the fight of the birds to the students is to alert the audience to the student’s conformity to the schools traditional values. The shot of the birds is shot in the morning where the light is continually getting brighter.

This is perhaps a symbol of hope and change in the traditional values of the school. In the background we can see red autumn leaves which are a symbol of blood and death. This contrast of hope with the morning light and the red of the autumn leaves is a representation of the opposing themes encountered.

The Scene of the student’s first classes is very important to establishing the contrast between the opposing themes in the film. The camera shots and angles are similar when the first classes of Chemistry, Latin and Trigonometry are shown.

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The camera tracks with the movement of the teacher and is a constant medium close up shot of the teacher. This use of the same angles and shots for each of the classes is to symbolise the traditional teaching methods at the school. The teachers are dressed in traditional suit and tie to emphasize the theme of tradition. The camera shots and angles differ in the shot of the first English class with Mr. Keating. The camera constantly cuts to different shots of the students walking around the class, talking and laughing.

The camera also ranges from different angles and shots. This creates an atmosphere of chaos which is intended on showing the themes of self expression and free thinking that is related with Mr. Keating and his English classes. However the director chose to place Mr. Keating in the same traditional suit costume as is found with the other traditional teachers. I would have chosen to have placed Mr. Keating in a different and less traditional costume to emphasize that he is different from the other teachers at Weltons academy.

The school represents tradition and order. The school structure has many similarities to that of a monastery. There are several shots which indicate to the audience about this important structural relationship between the school and a monastery. The school has strict policies of tradition and discipline which is why the director chose to give the school structure features which are very similar to those of a monastery. In the monastery the monk must submit to tradition and discipline in order to worship and serve God fully. The monk is forced to control his passions through discipline. This kind of behaviour is symbolic of the student’s lives at Weltons academy. As the boys leave the school boundaries for their first Dead Poets Society meetings they had the appearance of monks with their hoods pulled up. There is a brief shot of a bird’s erratic flight path. This is an important brief shot in the film as it is a contrast with the shots of the birds flying in formation earlier in the film. This birds erratic flight path represents the boys self expression and individualism that occurs once they leave the school boundaries.

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Dead Poets Society: study notes. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

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