An idealistic Union soldier with a romantic dream of the fast-vanishing frontier is rewarded for an act of heroic gallantry in the Civil War with the posting of his request, a remote fort in the Dakotas. There he is befriended by a tribe of the Lakota Sioux and goes native, only to be caught up in the encroachment of the white man, seeing the twilight fall on the great horse culture of the Plains.
Kevin Costner's directorial debut was ambitious, epic and, most worryingly, a western — chunks of it actually in Lakota Sioux with English subtitles — at a time when only Clint Eastwood was daring the unfashionable grand old genre with any success. Industry wags gleefully predicting disaster dubbed it "Kevin's Gate". Costner had the last laugh in a personal, artistic and commercial triumph when it rode away with seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Director. It was the first western to win Best Picture since Cimarron (1931).
Dances With Wolves is a captivating adventure and wistful elegy that sprung from a fascination Costner and his buddy, writer Michael Blake, shared with an entire Baby Boomer generation who grew up with the cavalry and Indians in Saturday matinees and on primetime TV but were later affected by the 60s-born movements for Native American rights and the environment. Its South Dakota locations and exciting action sequences were ideally suited to Australian cinematographer Dean Semler's talents, the Mad Max veteran at home with both awesome landscapes and rootin' tootin' action. Together they created a lyrical, warmly evocative prairie odyssey which refuses to stint on rich detail, as in the time and space given to Dunbar's strange journey to the abandoned fort and his introduction to the Indians — by stages his terror, curiosity and notions of formal diplomacy giving way to his complete captivation by his feather-decked neighbours and their way of life.
As director Costner was sufficiently savvy to take lingering elegiac, mystical, sentimental, comic or romantic chapters in Dunbar's story to a series of vivid action climaxes. The film draws you in from the outset on a Tennessee battlefield with wounded Lt. John J. Dunbar, courting death, galloping straight across a line of Confederate riflemen, finishing his wild ride on trusty steed Cisco unscathed. And he does it again, his arms outstretched in a sacrificial attitude, unwittingly inspiring a Union rout of the Southerners and becoming "a living hero". Conventional Indian attacks are largely avoided since the film is specifically a love affair with "The People", portrayed as proud, quick and humorous: "I had never known a people so eager to laugh, so devoted to family, so dedicated to each other. And the only word that came to mind was harmony."
McDonnell's Stands With A Fist remembers in a flashback the massacre on her family's homestead. The muleteer is slaughtered by a Pawnee hunting party looking for some action. And Dunbar/Dances With Wolves' ordeal when ultimately he is taken prisoner by an Army detachment is ended by an archetypally whooping band of braves in a gruesome flurry of arrows and tomahawks — with the unique distinction that it is the Indians who are the good guys charging to the rescue and the blue coats who are the savage baddies. Otherwise the most memorable action set pieces are in keeping with the majestic pace of the film. The earth-shaking passing of the buffalo that awakens Dunbar to a dreamlike glimpse of the mighty herd leads to the stately buffalo hunt. Beginning with ritual body painting and horse decorating, building to the gallop into the racing herd, the chase with its whoosh of arrows, whump of spears, cracks of Dunbar's rifle and thuds of crashing buffalo, Dunbar's rescue of the boy Smiles A Lot (Nathan Lee Chasing Horse) from a wounded beast's charge and the eating of its heart is an extraordinary eight-minute sequence that is spectacular but also furthers the story by elaborating the significance of what they are doing.
The same is true of the ferocious Pawnee assault on the village. The Lakota war party away and the raiders spotted, Dances With Wolves casts off Dunbar by giving his Army rifles to his friends and leading the frantic defence: "As I heard my Sioux name being called over and over, I knew for the first time who I really was." A year after its release Costner presented the "special edition" version of Dances With Wolves with nearly an hour of additional material. Almost all of this is seamlessly inserted snippets of dialogue here, a bit more snogging there, and still more ravishing scenery. The most important "new" scene is Dunbar's discover that the Lakota have caught, tortured and slain the ignoble white buffalo hunters. But there if no new major action scene and the added length, while handsome and involving for devotees, does drag the pace. Action fans are likely to be happier with the arguably superior, inarguably likeable, original "short" version.
The story of how he goes native, comes by his special name (capering with the wolf he calls Two Socks) and finds himself is as enchanting a western as ever was.
Undoing Stereotypes In The Movie, Dances With Wolves
Undoing Stereotypes in the Movie, Dances With Wolves
Hollywood has helped create and perpetuate many different stereotypical images of the different races in the world. Those stereotypes still continue to affect the way we think about each other today and many of those stereotypes have been proven to be historically inaccurate. The movie Dances With Wolves, directed by actor Kevin Costner, does an excellent job in attempting to promote a greater acceptance, understanding, and sympathy towards Native American culture, instead of supporting the typical stereotype of Native Americans being nothing but brutal, blood thirsty savages.
The film Dances With Wolves focuses mainly on one man named Jon Dunbar and his growing relationship with the Lakota Sioux Indian tribe. The Lakota Sioux Indian tribe migrated in the 1700's to different areas in South Dakota. For over one hundred and sixty years, the Lakota tribe held a massive piece of land in the plains to support their numerous herds of bison, which they also hunted in order to survive. They lived in the typical teepees and were exceptional horsemen, hunters, and warriors. They culture contained no written language and their heritage was trusted upon storytellers and drawings made on the bison hides. One bison hide could represent over fifty years of Lakota history.
The film, Dances With Wolves, was very cleverly written in my opinion. For most of the introduction, before John Dunbar begins to get friendly with the Sioux Indians, you are given an emotional expression of hatred and dislike towards the Native American Indians as they are slowly introduced into the script. There were a few scenes of brutality and savagery that triggered these emotions. For example, there was a scene when the Pawnee Indian tribe attacked a man named Timmons, as he was on his way home from Dunbar's military base. He was first shot with about four or five arrows until he was hanging on to life by a thread and then they scalped him. You then see the Pawnee Indians carrying off their new "trophy", which was a piece of Timmons' head. Another scene was when the camera first introduced the Indians into the movie by focusing in on a human skeleton that had an arrow stuck in the abdomen. Through scenes such as these, we are given an impression that the stereotypes about Indians being savages were indeed true. These ideas are changed as the movie begins to take a 180-degree turn and begins to focus on helping the viewer understand what the Indians were really all about.
The Lakota tribe was very humane and had fairly strong familial bonds. It wasn't easy to be accepted by their tribe at first but once you were accepted then you were considered to be one of the family. In the film, Jon Dunbar tries to make friends with the Lakota Indians but is unsuccessful at first. Being a very persistent and kind hearted man he slowly gains the acceptance of the tribe. The first witness of this is when some tribesmen pay a visit...
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