Scene summaries

Act 1

The school opening ceremony

The film Dead Poets Society (1989) directed by Peter Weir begins with the ceremony held at the start of the new school year at Welton Academy. In the first shot, two boys pose in front of the mural depicting old students. Everyone gets ready for the ceremony. The procession makes its way down the hall into the room where everyone is assembled. The two young boys lead the procession, followed by the bagpipers who play a traditional song. Then comes a senior student with a lit candle. At the end of the procession, four older students carry banners, each with a word on them. The audience rises and watches as they pass. Among the audience are Todd Anderson and his parents, as well as Neil Perry and his father. The senior student lights the candle of a first-year pupil seated in the front row, as the headmaster, Dr. Nolan, mentions passing on the light of knowledge. 

Dr. Nolan begins his speech. He asks what the four pillars are, and the older students stand up and answer with the words embroidered on the banner (“Tradition, honor, discipline, excellence”). Dr. Nolan boasts of the school’s achievements, and then introduces the new English teacher, John Keating. 

After the ceremony, Dr. Nolan greets the parents of the students at the door. Todd’s parents introduce their youngest son, who has been transferred from another school to attend Welton. Neil’s father greets Dr. Nolan by his first name. Dr. Nolan tells Neil he expects great things from him this year. Neil’s father speaks for Neil, reassuring Dr. Nolan that Neil will not disappoint them. 

Neil’s friends

Neil catches up with Todd after the ceremony. He introduces himself and tells him that they will be roommates.

Up in their room, a student named Richard Cameron asks Neil if the study group is still on for tonight. Then he jokes that Todd appears as emotionless as a dead body. Todd enters the room and overhears him, and Cameron retreats, embarrassed. Neil tells Todd not to pay attention to Cameron as he keeps saying the wrong things.

Neil’s friends, Charlie Dalton, Steven Meeks, and Knox Overstreet, show up and tease him about going to summer school. Neil admits that his father made him take chemistry lessons over the summer. Charlie asks Neil about the study group as well. When Neil mentions that Cameron wants in on the study group as well, the others do not appear excited at the prospect. Neil points out that Cameron is Charlie’s roommate, to which Charlie replies that it is something he has no control over.

Neil’s friends introduce themselves to Todd – who throughout the scene faces the wall, as he unpacks his suitcase. 

Unexpectedly, Neil’s father enters the room. Neil appears startled. His father has come to tell him to drop the school annual because he is taking too many extracurricular activities. Neil protests, and his father takes him outside the room where he reprimands Neil for disagreeing with him in public. He demands that Neil does exactly ...

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