The Dead Poets Club

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German title The Dead Poets Club
Original title Dead Poets Society
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1989
length 123 minutes
Age rating FSK 12
Director Peter Weir
script Tom Schulman
production Steven Haft ,
Paul Junge Witt ,
Tony Thomas
music Maurice Jarre
camera John Seale
cut William M. Anderson

The club of the dead poets (original title: Dead Poets Society ) is an American film drama directed by Peter Weir , which premiered on June 2, 1989 . The film launch in Germany was on January 25, 1990.

The screenplay by Tom Schulman used Nancy H. Kleinbaum as the basis for the 1989 novel about the film.


Todd Anderson joined the tradition- conscious Welton Academy , a conservative boarding school for boys in the US state of Vermont , at the beginning of the 1959 school year . Shy, withdrawn Todd is unconfident and overshadowed his older brother, who was one of the school's top graduates.

Also new to the school is the English teacher John Keating, himself a former student of Welton. His teaching amazes the students from the very first lesson. Using unconventional methods, the teacher encourages them to act independently and think freely. Since promoting the individuality of his students is very important to him, he repeatedly encourages them to trust themselves more and to explore their possibilities.

Keating teaches his students the world of literature and the beautiful things in life; they should understand and discover poetry within themselves, instead of just repeating what they have learned by heart. This also includes writing and reading your own poems. Keating makes repeated references to the poets Whitman , Thoreau and Frost .

In an old school yearbook, the students come across photos of Keating and learn that as a student he belonged to the so-called "Dead Poets Club". Asked about it at the next opportunity, Keating explains what the club was about: They met in secret in a cave in the woods to appreciate passionate poetry. Some of the students then decide to bring the club back to life. They sneak off the premises at night, meet in the said cave, recite poems to each other and enjoy the community beyond the narrow walls and rigid rules of the school. At the opening of each “meeting” of the club, as in Keating's time, an excerpt from Thoreau's Walden is traditionally recited by all members as a ritual .

At Keating's encouragement to take life into their own hands, the student Neil Perry discovers his passion for theater, but with this he opposes his father, who has already planned Neil's life. In a local performance of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night 's Dream , Neil gets the role of the puck and plays it with great success. But immediately after the performance, his father dragged him home and announced that he would be removed from school the next day and sent to a military academy. When Neil realizes that he cannot be heard and that he has to fulfill his father's wishes right through to choosing a career, he takes his own life during the night. In their search for someone to blame, Neil's father and the school administration blame Keating's teaching content and methods. In order to save their own skin, the members of the "Dead Poets Club" are urged to sign a pre-written statement with false allegations that Keating is solely responsible for, so that Keating is subsequently suspended.

While Keating is getting some personal items out of his classroom, Todd Anderson climbs on his desk and shows the outgoing teacher, to whom he owes so much, his respect in front of the entire class by saying “ O Captain! My captain! “Calls after. When Keating then turns around again, more and more classmates follow Todd's role model, until finally half the class is on the workbench while the headmaster runs angrily through the rows and loudly but in vain asks the students to sit down. Keating, moved, thanks the boys and leaves.

The central issue

The central theme of the film is the conflict between the conservative school management and the boys who strive for self-development.

The main ideas of the Welton boarding school tradition , honor , discipline , achievement (in the original: tradition, honor, discipline, excellence ) and their implementation should lead the students to professional success and make them the future elite. This is implemented through a strict curriculum, high requirements, severe sanctions in the event of refusal and strong interference by parents and teachers in the choice of subjects. The school is thus successful, which is reflected in the fact that a high proportion of students later study at universities of the Ivy League . Here against criticism will only take place in secret, where the central ideas of the school of the students to travesty , disgust , decadence , lethargy (Travesty, horror, Decadence, Excrement) are satirized and the Welton Academy nicknamed Hellton Academy (Engl. Light means Hell ) carries.

This scheme breaks through Keating, who wants to turn his students into people who think independently and teach them poetry as an expression of their individuality. He encourages her to live every day of her short, fleeting life in the sense of the Horatian motto Carpe diem ! to use. The students begin to question their strict obedience, which ultimately leads to a conflict with the school administration.

The dead poets quoted

The poets who influence the plot of the film or book with key passages of their work are sorted chronologically in literary history as follows:

English classics

If we shadows offend you,
O, believe - and
then we are well defended ! - You all
have just slumbered here
And looked in the night
visions of your own brain poetry. If you don't want to disdain
this childhood,
which disappeared like empty dreams,
dear Lord,
you should soon see something better.
If we
slip away from the wicked snake hissing undeservedly, then
on honor Droll promise
you our thanks soon;
Is a rogue willing to be called,
If this does not happen, how cheap.
Well, good night, end the game,
greet us with cradled hands!

If we shadows have offended,
think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
while these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No mor yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend;
If you pardon, we will mend.
And as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearnèd luck
Now to scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

  • Robert Herrick (1591–1674) describes in his poem Advice to a virgin to make something of her life (OT: To Virgins, to Make Much of Time ) the motto "Carpe diem":

Pick the bud while you can,
And the flowers when they are still shining.
Because soon the rose petals will be blown away.
How quickly does death go.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.

American romantics

  • Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) writes in his book Walden or Life in the Woods (OT: Walden; or, Life in the Woods ) about his temporary departure from society. His motto is that of the Dead Poets Club, which is read out at every meeting:

I went to the woods because I wanted to live consciously.
I wanted to savor existence. I wanted to suck in the marrow of life!
And throw away everything that held no life, so as not to realize on the day
I died that I had never lived.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,
To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die
Discover that I had not lived.

The sentence with which Keating asks his students to seek an independent point of view also comes from Walden :

Most people lead lives of silent desperation.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

  • Walt Whitman (1819-1892) wrote the poetry anthology Grashalme (OT: Leaves of Grass ) as his main work . The 52nd poem in the Song of Myself section contains the verse with which Keating challenges Todd Anderson to scream in front of the class:

I roar my barbaric Johoo over the roofs of the world.

I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

  • The 166th poem is also made from the blades of grass . Keating thereby emphasizes the need for beauty, love and poetry:

Oh me, oh life! to all these
 recurring questions, to
this infinite procession of the unbelievers,
 to the cities that are full of fools,
what kind of answer
 do I have - oh me, oh life?
But this is the answer:
You are here so that life
 and personality bloom ,
so that the mighty game continues
 and you can contribute your verse to it.

O me! O life! of the question of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless,
Of cities fill'd with the foolish,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring -
What good amid these, O me O life?
That you are here - that life exists
 and identity,
That the powerful play goes on,
 and you may contribute a verse.

  • With the title of another Whitman poem on the death of Abraham Lincoln , Keating wishes to be approached by the class:

O captain, my captain.

  • In one scene, Keating asks the students on the sports field to write passages of poetry on pieces of paper and shout out loud. All quotes used here come from Whitman's poem "Ein Sang der Freuden" ("A song of joys").

American modernism

  • Robert Frost (1874-1963) emphasized in his poem The not gone way (OT: The Road Not Taken ) the opportunities and consequences of our own individual decisions. After the class automatically fell into lockstep while wandering around the schoolyard, Keating encourages them to find their own rhythm independently of the others, thus encouraging them to find their own way:

Two paths were presented to me in the forest,
and I went the one that was less trodden.
And that changed my life.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.

  • EE Cummings (1894–1962) also emphasizes the idea of ​​“Carpe diem” in his poem versenk dich (OT: dive for dreams ). Keating reads the text at a joint meeting with the dead poets:

immerse yourself in dreams
otherwise a catchphrase will throw you down
(they are rooted in trees
and wind is wind)
trust your courage
when the seas flare up
(and live love
and the stars circled backwards)
honor the past
but look forward to the future
(and forget that death
at the wedding party)
what do you care about a world
full of villains and heroes
(because god loves girls
tomorrow and earth)

dive for dreams
or a slogan may topple you
(trees are their roots
and wind is wind)
trust your heart
if the seas catch fire
(and live by love
though the stars walk backward)
honor the past
but welcome the future
(and dance your death
away at the wedding)
never mind a world
with its villains or heroes
(for god likes girls
and tomorrow and the earth)

  • Nicholas Vachel Lindsay (1879–1931) wrote in his poem General William Booth Comes Into Heaven (OT: General William Booth Enters Into Heaven ) of the entry into eternity. While Keating sings it with the Dead Poets Club, Neil Perry takes his own life:

The pale dead walked side by side,
They bravely called from the fields,
The addicts, the scum from the streets,
Under the spell of vice and abandoned by the spirit
Have you been baptized with the blood of the Lamb of God?

Walking lepers followed rank on rank,
Lurching bravos from the ditches thanks to
Drabs from the alleyways and drug fiends pale
Minds still passion ridden, soul flowers frail:
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Film and reception

Real role models

In 1989 Tom Schulman wrote the script for the film The Dead Poets Club . He was inspired by his own school days at the conservative Montgomery Bell Academy , which provided him with the model for the Welton Academy. The enthusiasm of his English teacher Sam Pickering led to the design of the fictional teacher John Keating. However, during Schulman's time at the Academy there was neither a club nor a suicide . A classmate of the screenwriter, Greenfield Pitts, became the namesake for the film's student Gerard Pitts.

The philologist quoted in the English class “Dr. J. Evans Pritchard “is made up. The supposedly written by him and read aloud in class essay From the understanding of poetry is an almost exact copy of Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry of the American literature professor Laurence Perrine (1915-1995), whose works in English classes many schools in the United States Teaching materials were.

Differences between film and book

While the book focuses on Neil Perry and Todd Anderson equally, Neil clearly plays the lead role in the film. His story (the re-establishment of the club as a creative alternative to stupid school lessons; acting as an emancipatory change of role and an act of liberation directed against the father; suicide as an escape from the “captivity” of the life imposed by the parents) is presented in detail by the film. Todd Andersons internal development, on the other hand, is less emphasized in the film. The film, for example, suggests that Todd co-signs the prepared statement about Keating's sole guilt in the end. In the book, however, he is the only one who refuses to sign and does not avoid the conflicts that arise. It is no coincidence that he is also the first one who is grateful, consistent and brave enough to pay his last respects to Keating by saying “O Captain, my Captain!” And to step on the table for him. The development to an independently thinking and acting person, Keating's primary teaching goal, was therefore even more successful with Todd than with Neil.

Movie reviews

  • Fischer Film Almanach 1991: "The staging leaves nothing to be desired in terms of cast, camera and equipment."
  • Lexicon of International Films : “Director Peter Weir finds fascinating images for the moving story. A film that is equally remarkable in terms of subject matter and style, in which humor, youthful thirst for adventure, tragedy and revolutionary spirit are balanced almost according to classic standards. "
  • Filmzentrale / Malte Krüger: "No matter how skillful the cinematic means, Keating's figure drawing remains implausible."

Significance for the media reception of Robin Williams

The Dead Poets Club is seen as one of Robin Williams' most important and catchiest films , along with Good Will Hunting . After his death on August 11, 2014, the title line of the poem O Captain! My captain! together with the on-the-table-scene from the film to a worldwide symbol for the respect and the mourning for the popular actor.


  • Academy Awards 1990 :
    • Best Original Screenplay (Tom Schulman)
    • Nomination: Best Film
    • Nomination: Best Director (Peter Weir)
    • Nomination: Best Actor (Robin Williams)
  • Golden Globe Awards (USA)
    • Nomination: Best Actor in a Drama (Robin Williams)
    • Nomination: Best Director in a Feature Film (Peter Weir)
    • Nomination: Best Feature Film (Drama)
    • Nomination: Best Original Screenplay Fiction Film (Tom Schulman)
  • Writers Guild of America (USA)
    • Nomination: Best Original Screenplay (Tom Schulman)
  • The quote “ Carpe diem . Seize the day guys. Make something extraordinary out of your life. ”Was voted the 95th best film quote in American film history by the American Film Institute.



  • Nancy H. Kleinbaum: The Dead Poets Club. Novel. The book for the great film. (OT: Dead Poets Society ). 24th edition. Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 1996, ISBN 3-404-11566-X .
  • Nancy H. Kleinbaum: Dead Poets Society. A novel. Peterson, Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3-88389-170-3 .
  • Stefan Munaretto: Nancy H. Kleinbaum: The Dead Poets Society. König's explanations and materials (vol. 431), Bange Verlag, Hollfeld 2005, ISBN 3-8044-1817-1 .
  • Lydia Schuth: Dead Poets Society. The Dead Poets Club. mentor reading perspective. mentor, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-580-65435-7 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. The Dead Poets Club. Retrieved September 7, 2018 .
  3. The Dead Poets Club . In: KINO . ( [accessed on September 7, 2018]).
  4. ^ Greater Union Filmpalast GmbH, Neue Filmpalast GmbH & Co. KG: The Dead Poets Club | Cinestar. Retrieved September 7, 2018 .
  5. O Captain, my Captain! YouTube, accessed July 15, 2019 .
  6. ^ The literary historical classification is based on Lydia Schuth: Dead Poets Society. The Dead Poets Club. Mentor reading Durchblick. mentor, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-580-65435-7 , p. 28f.
  7. Complete quotation and further references to archived copy ( Memento of the original from August 16, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  8. Greenfield Pitts: Mr. Keating from "Dead Poets Society". From reel to real. In: Education Digest 56/4 1990, pp. 3-6. Quoted from: Niedersächsischer Bildungsserver; Retrieved July 23, 2010
  9. ^ The Dead Poets Club at the Film Service
  10. ^ Malte Krüger: The captain's fairy tale hour ; Retrieved July 23, 2010
  11. rp-online: Robin Williams - Caren Miosga rises on the table for Hollywood star , accessed on August 13, 2014
  12. #MyCaptain: Standing on tables: So the network says goodbye to Robin Williams - FOCUS Online. Retrieved July 15, 2019 .
  13. Awards Database . Retrieved November 27, 2010.
  14. ^ Welcome to the Directors Guild of America . Retrieved November 27, 2010.
  15. HFPA - Awards Search ( Memento of the original from October 11, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  16. Some Surprises in WGA Nominees, Shutouts: Film: 'Baker Boys,' 'My Left Foot' are dark-horse nominees for Writers Guild awards; non-union 'Do the Right Thing,' 'Drugstore Cowboys ... . In: Los Angeles Times , February 9, 1990. 
  17. AFI's 100 YEARS ... 100 MOVIE QUOTES
  18. Filming locations on IMDB (English)
  19. Overview of deleted scenes on Peter Weir Cave
  20. Overview of deleted scenes on Movie Censorship
  21. ^ Editing of deleted scenes on Youtube