Was Noland a monster?

Just hear me out! Let's look at his character first of all. Now I'm not saying I agree with him completely but let's look at his profile. He was much older than Keating and came from a different time. He seemed to genuinely believe that boys of that age didn't have the maturity to make their own choices (something I somewhat agree with I must admit). He believed in the curriculum and institution and that to question either would be to question something designed for positive personal and academic development. 'John, the curriculum here is set. It's proven it works'. In short as a man in his position whether you agree with him or not his intentions seemed sincere.

Now let's look at that position. He was the headmaster of a school to which parents paid thousands of dollars in order to have their sons graduate to Ivy league schools and not the stage. Their successful training in said institution and curriculum, even if he thought it was a load of crap, was his responsibility and it's a success that would have been expected, no demanded! He fairly counselled Keating 'prepare them for college, the rest will take care of itself'. In other words 'our job is simple.

Here's me perhaps being controversial. I never bought the whole scapegoat thing. Even if Mr Keating hadn't been left carrying the can Neils dad was never going to. So is it possible that Mr Noland genuinely believed that Mr Keatings encouragement at least contributed to Neil feeling he had no way out?

If you dip your foot into a pool of piranhas don't cry when you lose a toe!


I agree that Nolan was running the school the way the students' parents expected him to run it.

So is it possible that Mr Noland genuinely believe that Mr Keatings encouragement at least contributed to Neil feeling he had no way out?

I think that's very possible. Keating's encouraging the boys to "think outside the box" was definitely a factor in Neil's rebellion against his father's plan.

Fowler's knots? Did you say ... fowler's knots?


Noland was cold-hearted bully. Not intentional, just the way he was wired. And the man who played him is like 102 now. Too mean to die!


Cold hearted or strict? That's debatable but bully is a very strong word. It's the wanton desire to destroy those weaker than you. Noland's job was to build up not knock down and it's a responsibility he seemed to take very seriously so I'm curious as to how you arrive at the word bully?

Incidentally with or without Neil's suicide I think I would have eventually relieved Mr Keating of his position myself. I mean he gave him fair council and Keating continued to kick against the traces.

If you dip your foot into a pool of piranhas don't cry when you lose a toe!😞🐟


Okay, a dickhead then. Too take charge and confrontational without even giving it a second thought. Not exactly a thoughtful and reflective man.


God I remember when intelligent people used to post on IMDb.

If you dip your foot into a pool of piranhas don't cry when you lose a toe!😞🐟


IF you are looking for a "monster" in this movie it was the piece of $hit A$$hole who drove his own son to suicide (Kurtwood Smith). As irrational as this may be because he was not literally a worse person I hated his character in this even more than his more iconic role as the main villain in Robocop.

A major shame his son killed himself because most people are stuck in sucky dead end lives and he really had the potential to be a success.


I agree that Neil's dad was worse than Noland. As long as Neil kept his grades up, he should have been allowed to act in the play. It was Neil's life anyway, so he should have been the one to decide what he wanted to do with it. Noland and Keating didn't drive Neil to suicide, his father did, and not only that, it was his father's gun that he used to do it.


I too agree Neil's father was worse than Nolan, although I wouldn't call either of them monsters.

Also agree that as long as Neil was keeping up his grades, as he was as editor of the yearbook, there was no valid reason for his father to force him off either one. That was unreasonable and extremely controlling behavior.


Remember Todd's Dad wasn't exactly the most liberal either. The only reason we're attacking Neil's Dad is because Neil committed suicide. Besides Charlie everybody let themselves be bullied by their parents into signing the statement.

And I'm sorry, I think while a parent is putting clothes on their kid's back, a roof over their head, food in their belly and an education in front of them they have a perfect right to guide how they see fit. Neil could have waited until he was 18 and then left his parents home. In fact he could have left at 17 but he took the easy way out. He wanted it all.

We have to show the world that not all of us are like him: Henning von Tresckow.


Neil's father was scared was what he was. Neil mentioned his family isn't wealthy (their house is awfully nice in the late 50's way, though), so his father probably grew up with little during the Great Depression and worked his tail off so he could give him a chance to go beyond a basic college.

Then again in 1959, most people didn't go past high school at all!


I am wondering, if he had stood his ground as some children do and if need be emancipate himself to pursue an acting career what would his father have done? Would he have disowned his son? Or would he have come to his senses when he sees his son achieving success?

It reminds me of the story in Simpson's when Crusty the Clown's father disowned him for becoming a clown even though he was very successful and became wealthy and famous for it.

You know what his A$$hole father COULD have done to keep the kid from killing himself? When he confronted him for disobeying him by appearing in the school play (the reason his father did not want him acting was because all he seemed to care about was money and he believed there was more money in being a doctor than an actor) He could have said this:

Son, you disobeyed me by appearing in that play and I should be angry and punish you in some way but I won't. I was wrong in the first place to tell you not to act, I saw you on stage and I had no idea you were that talented. I will back up your plans to be a professional actor in any way I can. In fact I am so excited about that performance that we are going out to dinner to celebrate.

If that had happened it would have been a much happier movie.


Yeah, Neil's dad was a tyrant. He ran Neil's life basically. Remember the first scene where he tells Neil to drop the school annum because he felt Neil had too many extracurricular activities? He told Neil what to drop and didn't let Neil choose. It was as though his dad felt Neil couldn't do anything on his own.


Said actor was a Jewish furniture store owner's son who became an actor at a young age and had no tertiary education.

You could not say he was anything like a WASP ivy league educated high school teacher.


In a world where people have flown planes in to buildings or encouraged children to behead people, it's very privileged liberal to talk about people at prestigious seats of learning, or who've enabled their son to go to one, being monsters. There's no doubt that employing someone for the film who was a villain out of Robocop as father and someone who was in The Omen as a teacher potentially comes with its own baggage, intended or not, but all in context this film isn't broadly about demonising people.


I don't think Noland was a monster at all. Strict and conservative? Sure. It's what he was paid to be. Noland was headmaster at a school where he'd apparently been a teacher long before, so he's been there a LONG time. And the school did what it was supposed to do; they graduated a big percentage of their students to Ivy League schools. So his methods worked, and that's what matters.

I think one reason he hit Keating with the blame for Neil was that he honestly didn't know any better. When Neil killed himself, he obviously was told Keating was at fault by Cameron, who was trying to cover his own ass. But Noland didn't know that Neil's father was withdrawing him from Welton the next day and sending him to military school. THAT was a big part of why Neil did what he did, and Noland doesn't know that. All he knows is that Neil took a part in a play against his parent's wishes, was encouraged to do so by Keating, and then killed himself.

I think if he knew the whole story, he probably still would have fired Keating, but would also have made damn sure that Neil's dad's part in events was known so he could shift the scandal from the school to Neil's home, where it frankly belonged.

Whores will have their trinkets.


Mr. Nolan knew that Mr. Keating was doing some teachings in his class that seemed unorthodox. He thought he sort of had Keating under control after he talked to him. When Neil killed himself, Mr. Perry obviously told Nolan about this suicide and demanded that Nolan investigate and find a scapegoat. If Nolan didn't, Perry had the clout to tell other parents about what happened to his son and that the school caused it, so they would withdraw their students and funding and Welton would be gone. That is what Nuwanda means about schools going down because of things like this and they needed a scapegoat. Now, Nolan certainly isn't going to blame Perry for his son's death and he doesn't think the school is responsible. However, he knew about Keating and his teachings and I'm sure Perry might've brought Keating to Nolan's attention while finding a scapegoat. Nolan realizes that if he can get proof of Keating's guilt, he can fire him and Perry and the parents will be satisfied. Cameron finks to Nolan about the club and Nolan then gets the other boys to sign the statement saying that Keating was responsible, which then caused his termination. I think Nolan wasn't a monster, but an old fashioned man who ran the school and certainly didn't want it to go down. He felt that due to his power, he could find a way to blame Keating, get the students to sign the document and put the school at peace.


Like way too many movies from the 1980's, they had to beat their point into the ground. So, of course, a student "has" to die, and the Headmaster "has" to be a sociopath.

I consider the 1980's to be where the permanent decline of film began. And, considering this film, it is ironic, since it was the decade that crushed individualism underfoot, and let corporations completely dictate that films were manufactured, instead of being created.

This is demonstrated here since, while there are so many great aspects to this film, this 1980's film shows again where filmmakers stopped trusting their audiences, and felt they had to beat them over the head to "make their point."

The melodramatic aspects of this seriously hurt it for me.


That's an interesting and well thought out criticism.

For me, though, Neil's suicide made sense and worked for me, dramatically speaking. I bought that he'd felt so hopelessly oppressed by his father for so many years, that he saw his life -- after finding his passion, even if it were only fleeting, quashed so brutally -- as hopelessly bleak, feeling that he'd never be able to escape from under his father's thumb. The fact that he was a young teen made that all the more believable.

Although, I have to agree that the way his suicide was handled was too melodramatic, and would have been much more effective had it not been.

I didn't see Noland as a sociopath, just a man of his time, and a rather extreme pragmatist. One problem I had with the film was understanding why he would have hired Keating to begin with. He knew Keating, knew what he was like as a student, and it doesn't make sense that he'd have expected him to be much different as a teacher.

I've seen many films that didn't (and don't) trust their audiences, pre- and post-1980s.


I had not seen the movie until just this evening. Just one of those films that I hadn't seen until now. So, my hopes for it, and how it turned out to be, got to me.

I just think they could have gotten their point across without being so bludgeoning. If Neil had become despondent, ran away from home, and gotten killed in an accident in the process, for example. Then, have the parents still wanting to blame Keating. Follow that with the school wanting to have Keating gone, but leaving out the concocted statement thing. Have it where the students fight for him verbally, but ultimately back down, giving the appearance that they were defeated. But, still have the final scene, which would show that their fight was still there.

After the films of the 1970's, I personally saw the 1980's as turning its back on individualism from filmmakers, and going to a more manufactured, less artistic aesthetic. There are still great films that come out. But, they are more scattershot then they were during that great decade of 1967-1977.

p.s. Isn't it good to have Moviechat here to discuss these things? I was really let down when IMDb closed their boards.


Did you think the fact that Neil committed suicide was bludgeoning? I thought it made perfect sense, and wouldn't have been as effective for me had he merely run away and got killed in an accident. My only objection is the way the suicide was handled was too melodramatic.

The fact that his parents (really only the father, as far as we know) blamed Keating and wanted him gone was less important of a plot point, IMO.

Have it where the students fight for him verbally, but ultimately back down, giving the appearance that they were defeated. But, still have the final scene, which would show that their fight was still there.

That would have worked too, but I had no problem with having some of the kids stand up for (ha! no pun intended) Keating, one by one. I liked how they handled how, and when, each kid did it -- or didn't do it.

IMO the 80s wasn't the greatest decade by a long shot, and not just in film. No doubt there are some from that period I liked, although they escape me in the moment. I liked The Breakfast Club, but it was pretty light fare, although enjoyable.

Had to Google to see what other films I liked were from the 80s. Thought a list of Best Picture Oscar winners would be the easiest place to start. Take a look:


Are there any you liked? There were quite a few that I liked.

Yes! I'm so glad MovieChat was created. I love having conversations about films and shows, and I too was very let down when IMDb closed their boards.

I'm very much enjoying our exchange. So nice when a discussion is intelligent and doesn't devolve into put-downs and insults when people have even slightly different points of view.


Yeah, Neil's death was just too much for me. I think he had way too much life in him to kill himself. It just felt like the writer wanted a tragedy for the sake of tragedy.

The rest of the film felt naturalistic. So, injecting melodrama in the final act hit me as inconsistent and out of step with the rest of the movie.

I grew up in the 1970's, so it formed my impression of cinema. I was lucky to get to see edgier, adult fare just in time in 1976, before blockbusters took over. So, by time the 1980's came along, that decade just seemed like a let down.

There were great movies, like "Reds," "Amadeus," etc. But, films at that level seemed to become a rarer commodity in that decade. Less edge, less inventiveness, in my opinion. One thing was that I went to a LOT of movies in the 1980's, so saw a lot more than I did in the 1970's, where I was dependent on my mother to take me. That certainly meant that I was going to end up seeing more movies I wouldn't like.

It is cool to have this discussion! Great to connect with you. :-)