One thing I’ve realized I like doing is re-watching a movie I saw as a kid, picking up on all the layers of meaning I may have missed the first time around. It’s so cool to view something from the adult perspective and compare it to the perception your younger self had.
As I wrote about here, I’m currently living in Saskatoon with my family waiting for my K1 fiance visa, while Joe is in Portland. Long distance is made a lot easier with skype and gchat, but these modes of communication typically don’t allow for one of the things you miss most when you’re apart: just hanging out.
So last week we decided to watch a movie together, over skype. Have any of you out there doing long distance tried this? It’s not perfect (we had to mute our microphones to avoid hearing the delayed sound coming from each other’s laptops, then un-mute them if we wanted to talk) but it’s still kind of awesome.
We decided on Dead Poets Society–Joe had never seen it, and I remember loving it as a kid, though I couldn’t remember the exact storyline.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the film, Robin Williams plays a teacher at a conservative all-boys prep school, inspiring the students to “make their lives extraordinary” through his teaching of poetry.
One of the most powerful scenes for me was when Mr. Keating (Williams) coaxes a spontaneous spoken-word original poem out of the extremely shy Todd (played by Ethan Hawke, who looks soooo young).
“I close my eyes and this image floats beside me
The sweaty-toothed madman with a stare that pounds my brains
His hands reach out and choke me
And all the time he’s mumbling
Truth, like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold.
You push it, stretch it, it will never be enough
Kick it beat it, it will never cover any of us.
From the moment we enter crying, to the moment we leave dying,
it will just cover your face
as you wail and cry and scream.”
Keating instructs the boys to rip out the introductory essay of their poetry textbooks, because it claims that the value of a poem can be determined using a mathematical chart. As a kid, I hadn’t yet studied poetry when I saw the film, so the notion of measuring its worth in such a calculated way didn’t leave a big impression. This time around, I was relieved when Keating called the idea “excrement”–I can’t imagine having used charts to analyse poetry in my university classes!
What struck me most about the story was the bonds created between the boys. They start to figure out what they care about, what gets them excited, what they don’t agree with.
And because they live at the school and spend so much time together, they’re witness to–and a part of–each other’s realizations.
Seeing the impact of friendship gets me every time.
In one of the films most famous scenes, Keating has each of his students stand on his desk, teaching them that “we must constantly look at things in different way.”
Soon after the movie came out, my piano teacher Holly Duff talked about this scene one day at the end of my lesson. I was 10 or 11. Then she had me climb up on a table in our little practice studio at the conservatory and look around the room. I realize now how cool that was. (And seriously regret that I stopped taking lessons.)
Apparently Liam Neeson, Dustin Hoffman, and Bill Murray were all considerations for the role played by Williams. Can you picture any of them as Keating? They’re all amazing actors, but I love Williams in this film–it’s one of my favourite roles he’s done. (He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, but lost to Daniel Day-Lewis for My Left Foot.)
Now Joe and I are thinking about doing a Williams movie bender–he wants me to see Patch Adams next.
What about you? Any childhood favourites you’ve watched again, or would like to?
Also–a funny post about another 80’s movie you’ll remember…