Cinema: A Bothered School Spirit

DEAD POETS SOCIETY Directed by Peter Weir; Screenplay by Tom Schulman

Good old Welton: blue blazers, compulsory chapel, imitation Gothic architecture. A headmaster (Norman Lloyd) with a mellifluous voice and a pinched spirit. A student body harboring a minority of disaffected spirits awaiting rebellious mobilization. And over in the English department, a passionate eccentric, John Keating -- played by Robin Williams -- who is just the man to stir the lads up.

In the '50s, when Dead Poets Society takes place, prep schools of this type were basically boot camps for male Establishment offspring. They were also essential literary institutions. In...

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