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Dead Poet Society Conformity

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‘Dead Poet Society’ is really a movie about conformity.

Conformity is a powerful and the most overwhelming theme in the movie ‘Dead Poet Society’. The school demands for conformity from the students, Mr Keating’s informal attitude in teaching challenges conformity and how the movie shows many consequences of conformity prove that conformity is the main theme in ‘Dead Poet Society’. At Welton Academy they demand conformity of its students. The camera zooms into a group of straight-faced and disciplined young boys who are reciting the four pillars until their faces only fill the screen. The close up was a very subtle way of having the screen showing only the boys saying the same four words as well as all looking the same. The schools conformity is also demonstrated when the headmaster coerces the students to sign a statement. The camera zooms into the statement and then pans down onto the signatures of students. This simple scene has on overwhelming feel of conformity as the body language of the headmaster and Todd’s parents demand obedience and to conform like the other boys did. These simple actions make the boys conform to the school and conformity is a major theme in ‘Dead Poet Society’.

Mr Keating’s informal attitude towards teaching challenges conformity. The high angle shot of Mr Keating and his students in the hall envelops both the students and Mr Keating. With other teachers we have had a tracking shot or a low angle shot to show the superiority of the teacher. The high angle shot is different, because the shot includes both the teacher and students it shows them all the same. The set up at the end of the scene is also different than other teachers. The students are in the front and Mr Keating is watching them from behind, not talking to them from the front of a classroom another reason he is different than the other teachers. Mr Keating’s different style of teaching, including his lesson on conformity challenges the status quo in a way other teachers do not.

‘Dead Poet Society’ shows consequences of conformity or lack thereof. Neil’s suicide scene is a form of déjà vu. This is because when the audience watches suicide scene there is a feeling of lost control because nothing they can do can stop the Neil committing suicide. Throughout the film Neil’s control of his own life begins to slip away until by his last few scenes he has none. The greater and greater emphasis of conformity placed on Neil’s shoulders is what lead Neil to suicide. In the final scene the low angle looking at Tod standing on his desk is a very another effect of conformity. A proud, admiring feeling of Tod is achieved with the angle looking up at him and the swelling music accompanying the shot. Instead of having a negative consequence of conformity like Neil’s suicide the conformity that Todd fights has a positive effect a rise in his self confidence level. The two boys challenge conformity that overwhelms them and as all action do their acts of rebellion against conformity have consequences.

To conclude the sometimes overwhelming theme of conformity is the biggest theme in ‘Dead Poet Society’. The schools never ending pressure of conformity placed on the boys, Mr Keating’s unorthodox teaching style that challenges conformity and the consequences faced by breaking conformity are the main reasons why ‘Dead Poet Society’ is mainly about conformity.

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