Dances With Wolves

Today, I wanted to talk about a western that, in my experience, heavily divides opinion. People seem to think it’s either beautiful or boring…I’m glad to say that I’m the former. It’s one of the most important films of the genre despite what some may say about it…it’s Kevin Costner’s, Oscar winning, Dances With Wolves!!

This was the directorial debut of the great actor, who also plays protagonist John Dunbar and it’s clear to me that Costner really knew what he was doing. He knew what he wanted to say with this film and he definitely knew how to go about doing it…the technical aspects, from the cinematography to the sound are done excellently and I for one, have huge respect for Costner for shooting such a big film for his directorial debut.

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A discussion between Dunbar and Kicking Bird

The film, as previously stated, centres around Costner’s John Dunbar, who, upon request, is situated in a small, abandoned fort on the American frontier during the civil war. There he comes into contact with a Sioux tribe, Native Americans, whose first thoughts regarding him are as a threat to their land. Through various circumstances, most notably the rescue of the suicidal ‘Stands With A Fist’, portrayed by Mary McDonnell, he comes to befriend the tribe, especially ‘Kicking Bird’ (Graham Greene) with whom he teaches and gets taught various skills, most importantly, language. ‘Stands With A Fist’, a native white woman who was taken in by the Sioux as a child after her family was attacked by the rival Pawnee tribe, acts a translator between Dunbar and the natives and is the woman whom Dunbar goes on to marry, under Sioux law.

I could go on and on describing the narrative of the film to you but that would take far too long…all you really have to know beforehand is that it is a film about John Dunbar’s friendship, acceptance and relationships with this tribe during the time of the civil war…all of which develop at a sweeping pace throughout the film’s expansive runtime. The messages and ideologies of the film truly add to the film’s cinematic beauty.

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Dances With Wolves and Stands With A Fist

Speaking of that, Dances With Wolves truly is a stunning film to look at…every scene has shots of vast Midwestern plains which both romanticise the events when neccesary but also act as an indication of isolation when neccesary. You can tell by that statement that this is a film that is highly emotional; it will make you laugh at times and it will make you cry (depending on how emotional a person you are of course).

As I’ve stated multiple times over the past week…for me, one of the most important elements of a western is its cinematography and as you can tell, this one does not disappoint.

As to Dances With Wolves’ importance to the genre; it’s release, in 1990, sparked the revival of the Western and without it, you could say that we wouldn’t have all the universally popular and brilliant ‘Modern Westerns’ of recent years…it’s difficult to know what would have happened to the genre had Costner not decided to make this (or at least make it so well) but the chances are that it would have probably faded to dust. Even the haters of DWW can’t disagree with it’s importance.

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Graham Greene as Kicking Bird

Finally, the performances, as if I’d leave those out. Kevin Costner is excellent as Dunbar/DWW even if presented in an almost God-like fashion as a character. You really identify with him and this adds once again, to the beauty of the film. It’s hard not to like Costner as an actor and this one should assist in liking him more. Likewise, Graham Greene as Kicking Bird is fantastic to watch…one must remember that he and many other actors portraying the Native Americans had to learn the Sioux language which can’t have been easy…but anyway, Greene will not disappoint at all. The one thing I would say is that I’m not a huge fan of Mary McDonnell in this film and I don’t really know why…it’s probably her character in truth but I’m not a huge fan…she doesn’t give a bad performance by any means, but it’s not up to scratch with the others.

One more notable cast member is Rodney A. Grant as ‘Wind In His Hair’ who, like Costner and Greene, gives a great performance as a member of the main cast and the native who had to be convinced slightly more than the others that Dunbar was a good guy.

This one’s been a bit longer than recent ones but hopefully that shouldn’t matter. Don’t be put off DWW because of what some may say regarding its aptitude for attention keeping…personally, I don’t think they were watching it properly.

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The outstanding buffalo hunting scene

If you are ever in any doubt regarding the beauty, expansive nature and downright journey that this film is…just watch the buffalo hunt scene…stunning.

Again, I wouldn’t go as far to say ‘I love Dances With Wolves’ but again, I very much like it.

Let me know what you think about this film in the comments and contact me at morgan@thepurpledon.com if you have any inquiries or suggestions for improvements to posts!

The Final Western In This Selection Tomorrow

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