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217 of 230 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "And what will your verse be in the poem of life?"
"I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." (Henry David Thoreau, "Walden.")

Hands up folks, how many of us discovered Thoreau after having watched this movie? *Really* discovered I...
Published on September 3, 2001 by Themis-Athena

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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What a Brilliant Movie! What an Apalling Video!!
There are three versions of this movie that I am aware of. The first is the theatrical release, the telvision version that has 13 extra minutes added on, and last the travesty that Touchstone has released. Why DPS has been hacked up in this way is puzzling to say the least. In some parts, the plot suffers greatly because key scenes have been cut out. For example, when...
Published on May 18, 1999


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217 of 230 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "And what will your verse be in the poem of life?", September 3, 2001
By 
Themis-Athena (from somewhere between California and Germany) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dead Poets Society (DVD)
"I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." (Henry David Thoreau, "Walden.")

Hands up folks, how many of us discovered Thoreau after having watched this movie? *Really* discovered I mean, regardless whether you had known he'd existed before. How many believe they know what Thoreau was talking about in that passage about "sucking the marrow out of life" cited in the movie, even if you didn't spend the next 2+ years of your life living in a self-constructed cabin on a pond in the woods? How many bought a copy of Whitman's poems ... whatever collection? (And maybe even read more than "Oh Captain! My Captain!"?) How many went on to read Emerson? Frost? Or John Keats, on whose personality Robin Williams's John Keating is probably losely based? Judging by the vast majority of the reviews on this site alone, you just can't fail to notice that this movie has a powerful appeal like few others; "inspirational" is probably the most frequently used word in the opinions represented here. And justifiedly so, despite the fact that charismatic Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), one of the movie's main characters, tragically falters in the pursuit of his dreams, in the wake of apparent triumph. Because although Neil's story is one of failure, ultimately this movie is a celebration of the triumph of free will, independent thinking and the growth of personality; embodied in its closing scene.

Of course, lofty goals such as these are not easily achieved. Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) in particular, the last scene's triumphant hero, is literally pushed to the edge of reason before he learns to overcome his inhibitions. And Thoreau said in "Walden:" "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; That is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." Anyone who takes this movie's message to heart (and Thoreau's, and Whitman's, and Emerson's, Frost's and Keats's) knows that success too easily won is often no success at all, and most of our truly important accomplishments are based on focus, tenacity and hard work as much as on anything else. And prudence, too ... dashing Charlie Dalton (Gale Hansen) pays a high price for his spur-of-the-moment challenges of authority; although of course you just gotta love him for refusing to sign Keating's indictment. "Carpe diem" - live life to its fullest, but always know what you are doing, too.

You won't enjoy this movie if you are afraid of letting your mind and your feelings run free. Shot on the magnificent location of Delaware's St. Andrews Academy, "Dead Poets' Society" is visually stunning, particularly in its depiction of the amazingly beautiful scenery (where the progression of the seasons mirrors the progression of the movie's story line), and it is as emotionally engaging as it invites you to mentally reexamine your position in life. Robin Williams delivers another Academy Award-worthy performance (he was nominated but unfortunately didn't win). Of course, Robin Williams will to a certain extent always be Robin Williams ... "Aladdin's" Genie, "Good Morning Vietnam's" Adrian Cronauer and "Good Will Hunting's" Professor McGuire (the 1997 role which would finally earn him his long overdue Oscar) all shimmer through in his portrayal of John Keating; and if you've ever seen him give an interview you know that the man can go from hilarious and irreverent to deeply reflective in a split second even when it's not a movie camera that's rolling. Yet, the black sheep among Welton Academy's teachers assumes as distinct and memorable a personality as any other one of Williams's film characters.

Of its many Academy Award nominations (in addition to Robin Williams's nomination for best leading actor, the movie was also nominated in the best picture, best director [Peter Weir] and best original screenplay categories), "Dead Poets' Society" ultimately only won the Oscar for Tom Schulman's script. But more importantly, it has long since won it's viewers' lasting appreciation, and for a reason. - As the Poet said: "Camerado! This is no book; Who touches this, touches a man" (Walt Whitman, "So Long!"), this is no movie; who watches this, watches himself!

Also recommended:
Good Will Hunting (Miramax Collector's Series)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (The New Folger Library Shakespeare)
Henry David Thoreau : Collected Essays and Poems (Library of America)
Whitman: Poetry and Prose (Library of America College Editions)
Robert Frost: Collected Poems, Prose, and Plays (Library of America)
John Keats: The Complete Poems (Penguin Classics)
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101 of 105 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Be careful if you want the Director's cut, November 30, 2005
Be careful about the label 'Special Edition' if you are still waiting, like me, for the fabulous Director's cut that was released on laser disk but not on DVD. It contains essential extra footage added by Peter Weir that fleshes out the motivations behind many of the characters and answers some questions that the theatrical cut raises. The Director's cut is 142 minutes so this DVD is just a re-release of the original theatrical version.
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62 of 64 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Special Edition" is Less Special Than it Could Be, January 10, 2006
By 
Robert A. Bimson (Napa, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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I just received the "Special Edition" and was disappointed. The reviewer who advised caution was correct-this is just the same version with a few "bonus" features. The "Deleted Scenes" or "Raw" footage contains only the couple of minutes of Keating meeting the boys at the cave after Neil's performance. The version shown on USA (I haven't seen the Laser Disk Director's Cut) containing the extra footage of Knox's dinner at Danbury's and meeting Ginny Danbury, the scene rehearsing near the lake, the boys being assigned their extracurricular activities are all missing. The original script called for Knox and Chris to kiss near the frozen waterfall after the Keating-led meeting. That's not here, either. Too bad - those scenes really tie up the story much better.
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64 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational, January 21, 2000
By 
R. DelParto "Rose2" (Virginia Beach, VA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
No matter how many times I watch a particular movie, certain ones have a way of moving me. Dead Poets Society was one of them. It was the most influential film I had ever watched, and the only one that I could relate to directly and indirectly.

Robin Williams plays the English teacher, John Keating, who brings enthusiasm to the classroom of young scholars whose only sense of fun is spending time together in their study groups. But his method of teaching was rather unconventional. Keating did not conduct an in your face way of teaching, and nor did he spoon feed the boys in his class. Keating suggests to the students that in any formal environment, there is the strict expectation that one follows the straight and narrow, and free thinking is the antagonist where there should not exist any curves or turns. He simply opens the minds of the students who only thought that going to prep school was the easiest way to get to Harvard. And in essence, the main gist of the film has to do with, no matter what direction in life one takes, poetry is the path to expression.

This movie was high with emotions and of course relationships. I particularly thought Ethan Hawke's performance was very convincing. If you've ever been a situation like Hawke's character, you would know what I mean; watch the movie and you'll understand. Also, the relationship between Robert Sean Leonard's character and his father was very realistic of a person who's dying to break free from parental influence.

As in any movie depicting honor and respect (School Ties and Scent of a Woman), someone suffers the consequences, but no one is left standing alone. In the case of Dead Poets Society, the circle of friendship that existed between the students became a hard lesson. The film makes a good of emphasizing that those whom you thought were invincible, turned out to be less of your expectations, and the movie was good at presenting that scenario.

If you like a movie that doesn't preach to you, but nourishes your mind with words to ponder, or words of encouragement, I recommend Dead Poets Society.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What a Brilliant Movie! What an Apalling Video!!, May 18, 1999
By A Customer
There are three versions of this movie that I am aware of. The first is the theatrical release, the telvision version that has 13 extra minutes added on, and last the travesty that Touchstone has released. Why DPS has been hacked up in this way is puzzling to say the least. In some parts, the plot suffers greatly because key scenes have been cut out. For example, when Knox meets Chris for the first time at the Danbury's, are we to assume that he falls head over heels in love after just seeing her at the door for all of 30 seconds? Also, there is a great scene when Dr. Nolan is handing out the extra-curricular activities at Welton, showing what a tyrant he is. Again, this scene is left on the cutting room floor. Given the Oscar nominations this movie had, and that it is one of Robin Williams' most memorable roles, I am baffled as to why Touchstone would give this move such short shrift when releasing a home video version. My advice to anyone who wants to enjoy DPS at home would be to seekout a copy of the TV version which has the full theatrical version plus the extra 13 minutes. Dead Poets' Society is a touching and thoroughly enjoyable movie. However, the verision that is found on the home video release bears little resemblance to it.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Carpe Diem?, August 13, 2000
By 
Kaz (Wisconsin, USA) - See all my reviews
Although dramatically obvious in some respects, this movie was very well directed and acted. The various elements of conflict were established early on, and the tension they created held me in their grip through the denouement. Robin Williams plays the part of the ultimate romantic, the idealist. His love of poetry is so infectious that he inspires his students to reestablish his own Prep-School Secret Society after which the movie is titled. He wants his students to live life to its full, carpe diem, seize the day. His idealistic enthusiasm appeals to the romantic in all of us. However, the Roman proverb, when looked at in its entirety, shows the weakness in this excessively romantic approach to life: Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero, "seize the day, trusting as little as possible to what tomorrow may bring." Williams perhaps forgot that, while young people are impressionable, they can also be impractical in their application of what is impressed upon them. Teenagers don't need to be inspired to live for today; that is the very essence of youth. What teenagers need is to be reminded of the responsibilities of life, and that there are consequences to every decision we make. That reality was to take on deep and painful meaning for Williams when his most gifted student defies his father (unbeknownst to Williams) to such a sad outcome.
I found the symbolism employed in this film subtle and intriguing. A comparison is drawn between Williams and Abraham Lincoln. In Walt Whitman's poem "Captain my Captain" Whitman pays homage to the dead Lincoln for his many virtues, his strength of character, and, in particular, for freeing an oppressed people. Williams tells his students that, if they dare, they can call him "captain my captain". He wants his students to appreciate that he is trying to help them free their minds so they can think for themselves. This brings Williams into conflict with the school Principal who believes that students should learn to conform to society, and that rigid discipline is the better curriculum.
I found another subtle connection between Lincoln and one of characters, although it was probably not the director's intention. When Abraham Lincoln came to appreciate the horrific deadly impact of the Civil War on the lives of so many of his people, he couldn't bear the burden. Employing what may be called a self-preservation mechanism, Lincoln laid the burden of the Civil War on God's shoulders. He came to view the war as God's punishment to his Nation for allowing the egregious institution of slavery to endure for so long. So it was with Leonard's father. He could not deal with the guilt he felt for the loss of his son, so he used William's teaching methods as his scapegoat. Unfortunately William's shoulders were not as broad as God's, and his life and career were devastated.
Weir also used religious allusion when directing the scene in Leonard's bedroom, where Leonard wears the wreath from the Shakespearean play in which he starred. This apparently had some connection to the thorny crown Christ wore when he was impaled. Weir was likely implying that Leonard is to be considered a sacrifice on the alter of his father's unreasoning close-mindedness; though it may not be inappropriate to consider him as one impaled on the 'cross' of youthful misapprehension and miss-guidance.
One of the movie's elements of conflict was the ideological tension between William's and his employer. Williams was a romantic idealist; the principle of the school for which he worked was an unbending, rigid realist. Williams probably knew that his innovative if somewhat unorthodox teaching methods would ultimately cause him to butt heads with the school system, but his love for young people and for teaching, coupled with his belief that he could make a difference in his students lives, encouraged him to follow his convictions. The tension between Williams and the school was only a subplot, and one of many that were artfully weaved throughout the fabric of this excellent film. There was also contrast between the outgoing and the shy, the charismatic and the inhibited.
Robert Sean Leonard plays the outspoken, gifted, charismatic youth. He has such savior faire that everybody likes and looks up to him. His roommate, played by Ethan Hawk, was his antithetical counterpart. Hawk was shy and inhibited --so much so that he wouldn't even join the Dead Poets Society unless he were assured that he would never have to read in front of the group. In the development of these two characters we see the expression of one of life's great ironies. Those who appear to be most in control, who seem to have life by the horns and seem destined to succeed in what ever they do, often lack the inner strength to follow through with their convictions. Conversely, those who are quiet, introverted, introspective, and inhibited, often have great inner strength, which gives them the ability to surpass these barriers when it really matters. It is their deep conviction and determination to do what is right that gives them their strength. Both boys had controlling parents-although Leonard's father was perhaps the epitome of the controlling, manipulative father. Both boys were put in positions where they had to stand up for what they believed. But in the end, it was the timid Hawks who had the strength of character to stand up (literally on his desk) for what he believed was right.
That is not to say that Leonard was completely lacking in strength of character, but seventeen or eighteen years of being so thoroughly dominated by his father rendered him incapable of breaking his forced habit of subjection when it mattered to him most.
This leads of course to Leonard's father, the character who provided perhaps the greatest conflict in the film. It seems that Weir wanted the audience to dislike this character, and most people probably instinctively do. He was domineering, manipulative, and closed-minded. His manner was so over-bearing that his son was paralyzed when it came to confronting him. However, we should not overlook the reason the father was so unyielding. He labored hard to give his son opportunities he never had. If he was unreceptive to his son's desire to be an actor, it was certainly with good cause. Hollywood is filled with would be actors, who will never get the "big chance" for which they have pinned their life's hopes and dreams. What parent would not be unresponsive or at least unenthusiastic in the same situation? We should not forget that Leonard was just a teenager, and few teenagers have the perception, understanding, or maturity to make such weighty decisions --Peter Weir's opinion notwithstanding.
This is not to say, of course, that I support the father's domineering parental style, but being a good parent is difficult --especially today. It was heartrending and tragic that the father's mistake was one for which making amends would be forever denied him. There is an illustration that applies well to Leonard and his father's relationship: If you pick up a handful of sand and hold your hand open, the sand will pour between your fingers; if you hold on too tight the sand will pour between your fingers; but, if you gently cup the sand in your hand you will hold on to it. Good parents are neither too lax nor too rigid, but they learn to hold their children in a gentle loving cup. Leonard's father held him in a vice-like grip; what poured through his fingers was his son's precious blood. It is in this contemplation that the movie's subtler, sub-theme finds its expression: "The road not taken [really] can make all the difference." If Leonard would have found the courage to confront his father, to assertively share his dreams and desires, a different end may have been achieved. If Leonard's father would have been made to realize that his son was serious about his desire to be an actor, and that he would let nothing get in his way, his father may have relented. At least a compromise may have been reached. In any case, Leonard would soon be an adult and could decide for himself what course his life would take. He was certainly not obligated to the ten years of medical school he so ardently feared.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THIS MOVIE IS LIFE CHANGING,BEST EVER, December 8, 1999
By 
robert warmington (brisbane australia) - See all my reviews
I first saw this movie on its original release in 1989 and can genuinely say that it completely changed my life,I was 22 at the time and with no particular direction in life.It quickly became my favorite film ever and I couldnt get enough of it seeing it as much as I could while it was in release than snaffling it up when it came out on video.I also bought the soundtrack on cassette and cant wait to get it on CD.I also would love to put my own dead poets society together if I can find the guys to do it,if I do I have the perfect book,the Oxford book of english verse,which covers the history of poetry to about 1930 and includes American and English poets with the notable exception of Robert Frost.Im dying to go to St Andrews where it was filmed and Im also a fledgling poet,hoping to publish a book of poetry one day even if I have to do it myself. To the movie itself it is a true masterpiece,everything is perfect,especially the actors and the brilliant photography.The script is a work of genius and well deserved its oscar and in a perfect world would have won many others not least for best film,lead actor for Robin Williams and supporting actor for the wonderful Robert Sean Leonard. I definately recommend this film to anyone with a heart and soul for it will truly turn you on to life and its possibilities like no other. Carpe Diem. That same flower that smiles today tomorrow will be dying
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I can feel it...this desk set wants to fly!", January 15, 2006
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I Love DPS. It's my favorite film, and, I think, one of the best made in my lifetime (30 years). During my own boarding school days, it was life-altering. So, I got the new Special Edition, assuming it would be the director's cut. I remember once seeing it on television, about 20 mins longer. Not so. They included one cut scene (in the bonus stuff) which was supposed to be intercut with the suicide scene (and mercifully, wasn't).

The interviews with the actors were odd. Ethan Hawke was a tad flaky -- he called Robert Sean Leonard "Terry" (his character's name in the Hawke-directed Chelsea Walls) He also was mysteriously unclear on where they were staying during filming -- "We were staying at a Radisson -- or maybe it wasn't, but something like that -- in Dover. No, New Castle. No, it definitely wasn't New Castle. Dover? I don't know where it was." (It was New Castle, according to the credits. But why wasn't this monolouge of uncertainity cut out?) RSL didn't have much to say for himself, considering the importance of his role. They talked to Dylan Kussman (Cameron), Allelon Ruggiero (Meeks), Kurtwood Smith (Mr. Perry), Norman Lloyd (Mr. Nolan), who was very Mr. Nolan-ish ("They wanted ME to audition! I had been on St. Elsewhere! _I_ wasn't going to audition!") and oddly, Melora Walters (One-Line Townie Girl, Gloria), who was rather annoying. Obviously, Robin Williams was conspicuously absent, and I would have liked to see Gale Hansen (Charlie) and Josh Charles (Knox). The only interesting information was that RSL and Ethan wrote the desk set scene themselves, because what the script called for wasn't working.

Then I watched the feature with commentary by Peter Weir (who was interesting), the cinematographer, and the screenwriter who was quite irritating. In the original script Keating was supposed to have cancer, and die at the end. He kept referring to him as being sick/dying, without explaining that was an earlier version of the script. Also, although he said Neil was based on his best friend, and Welton was what his school (private, but a day school) wanted to be, he neglected to say that Keating was based on an English teacher (Samuel Pickering, now a professor at University of Connecticut) he had at school. Perplexing.

All in all, if you have the regular DVD, don't bother buying the special edition. So disappointing. Also, I had the distinct impression from the film commentary that it was meant for the 10-yr anniversary. Wonder what the hold-up was? The bonus material here wants to fly like a desk set and instead falls with a resounding thud.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Free Thinkers at Seventeen", November 19, 2000
By 
Laura Surma (Fremont, California USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dead Poets Society (DVD)
"Dead Poets Society" was shown in my American Literature class as a teaching device for transcendentalism. Though I do not believe wholeheartedly in the ideas of transcendentalism, I found "Dead Poets Society" to be one of the most moving films that I have ever seen. As a student, I know what it is like to feel pressure to academically succeed, and through my classmates, I have seen the strain that pressure can put on a parent-child relationship. "Dead Poets Society" logs the effect of one inspiring teacher on upon a group of boys that have never been given the chance to think for themselves.
One boy, Neal, realizes his dreams to be more than an intellectual, but also an actor. His struggle with his father brings him to drastic measures, but he is an admirable character for overcoming his ability to overcome his fear of standing up to his father. Other boys experience trouble and triumph with authority, love, and fear. Their stories are classic, but also portrayed beautifully.
Robin Williams plays Mr. John Keating, the English teacher that inspires the boys of Wellton Academy to think on their own and to seize the day. They re-initiate the Dead Poets Society, a group that Keating was in as a student at Wellton. Through their club, the boys discover the magic of poetry and the power of words. Keating uses famous quotes from Whitman, Thoreau, and other classical thinkers to motivate his students. His charisma and optimistic view of life is uplifting and leaves one inspired for days. Perhaps his outstanding performance is best portrayed in his line, "Life is a play and you may contribute one verse. What will it be?"
The film is well acted and revives memories of one's first experience in standing up for one's own beliefs. I recommend this movie to anyone who finds inspiration in literature, and to every person who wants to make the most of his life. It is teachers like Keating that breed our future philosophers and geniuses. This film is a thank you to every teacher who has unknowingly inspired his or her students to do great things. The final scene when the boys pay tribute to their teacher who is punished for influencing them is enchanting! P.S. Thank you Mrs. Allen!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Oh Captain, My Captain...", May 24, 2006
By 
Al Patino (Neu-Ulm, Bayern Germany) - See all my reviews
"Dead Poet's Society" is a movie which could be probably called a comedy-drama. It was written by Tom Schulman and directed by Peter Weir who both created an absolutely unusual, innovative piece of art.

Welton Academy whose four pillars are tradition, honour, discipline and excellence, is the type of school, where children of rich parents are sent to in order to leave as future doctors or lawyers. Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke), a shy young man, is one of Welton's new students and plays, together with the new literature teacher John Keating (Robin Williams), the leading role in the movie. Another important role is played by Todd's roommate Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard) who is the reason for the movie's genre. The other students Knox Overstreet (Josh Charles), Charlie Dalton (Gale Hansen), Richard Cameron (Dylan Kussman), Steven Meeks (Allelon Ruggiero), and Gerard Pitts (James Waterston) all fit into the conformity of the school and gain great marks.

But everything changes with the arrival of the new English literature teacher John Keating, who doesn't fit into the conservative attitude of the school and makes his students, for example, rip out pages from their books that he considers as wrong and stand on their desks to see the world from a different view. The boys are totally fascinated by his methods of teaching just like the "Carpe Diem" motive, which he tries to convey to them. "Make your lives extraordinary" is one of his famous quotations, which his students don't hesitate to follow. Therefore, when the boys get to know about a secret organization called the "Dead Poet's Society", founded by their motivated literature teacher, they decide to revive it.

The movie is visually beautiful, there are so many great pictures in it, like a scene which plays at sunset and everything is enveloped in an orange mist. The classical music in the movie is a great idea in my opinion as it conveys both the prestige of the school but also the emotions of its students, for example sadness, happiness or melancholy and is chosen perfectly for every scene. There has even been a novelization of the movie by Nancy H. Kleinbaum which is supposed to be even better than the movie itself, but I cannot prove this as I did not read it.

When I saw this movie for the first time, and this was, together with the rest of my English class, I somehow really felt a need for some major changes in my life. A student at our age probably does not realize that his time is constantly running out. That is why I think that this movie is ingenious, it makes us think about our time, things we maybe want to do once in our lives or opportunities we already had but missed. So "seize the day" and "suck the marrow out of life" before it's too late.
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Dead Poets Society
Dead Poets Society by Peter Weir (DVD - 1998)
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