When I first saw this in 1989 I thought it was interesting and okay. It was only years later, when life was collapsing around us, that I revisited the film on video and really began to appreciate it. It was one of the boys in the story, Todd, who really moved me. He was lacking in confidence and struggling to write his own poem. So much so that when he is asked to read his piece out in class, he has to confess he hasn’t come up with anything. Mr Keating then tells the class that Todd feels that everything inside of him is worthless. Boy, did I get that. It moved me to tears. I knew that feeling of inadequacy and failure, that sense of confusion and loss of courage and direction. I had been working full time using drama and mime to communicate the Christian faith, and gradually, over a couple of years, the stress had increased, and I had lost my way. Having given it up in the hope that a writing career might take off I seemed to be going nowhere. And so I love the scene when Mr Keating refuses to give up on Todd and instead stands him in front of the class and coaxes a powerful piece of creativity from him. Truth is like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold. So says Todd as Mr Keating circles him, urging him on. How true that statement can be. Truth without love can be harsh and brittle, repelling us rather than drawing us closer. That’s why I believe in the power of a good story to woo us, to create conversation and questions, to open us to the truth that sets us free. Rather than leaving us with chilly toes and frozen feet. Since then I have drawn on this moment many times, using the example of Mr Keating here, to illustrate Jesus’s engaging style of maverick, caring and interactive teaching.
Film Friday: Dead Poets Society
Fri 11 June 2021