Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dances with Wolves

Dances with Wolves; western-drama, USA, 1990; D: Kevin Costner, S: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant, Floyd 'Red Crow' Westerman, Tantoo Cardinal

19th Century. After participating in the American Civil War and gaining a victory, Lieutenant John Dunbar decides to leave the civilisation and gets, on his own wish, transported to the western frontier that borders with the Indian territory. In a lonely outpost, Dunbar meets the Indians and starts to love their culture, blending in with them. His best friend is Kicking Bird while he falls in love with Stands With A Fist, a white woman also living with the Indians. When the army arrives and arrests him, Dunbar escapes and becomes an Indian himself.

Shining epic romantic western "Dances with Wolves" was appropriately recognized through numerous awards and become a huge commercial success when already everyone thought the western genre was 'over'. Although some critics are not inclined towards it, complaining about Kevin Costner's acting, mannerisms, tedious moments and a few black and white solutions, the movie is directed and conceptualized masterfully, inspired in twisting the western cliches by actually showing Cowboys as invaders and Indians, Native-Americans, as good and civilized people, whereas the music by John Barry is miraculous, something so enchanting that it has to be heard to be believed. The exposition with Dunbar in civilised society is deliberately portrayed as raw and crude (a crazy major who commits suicide; the primitive waggon rider...) in order for his conclusive blending with the Sioux culture to seem more dreamy and magical, as if he enters a new world.

By patiently creating a humane story, that is so refreshing from so many other backward films, since the characters are here above some material things in life, in spiritual balance, the authors crafted a quiet, unassuming display of emotions. Simple situations—an Indian gains a smile on his face after he tastes sugar for the first time in his life; Stands With A Fist (brilliant Mary McDonnell) tells Dunbar how she got her name and he thus jokingly "falls" after being "knocked out"; the couple secretly escape from the forest, surrounded by falling petals, in order to have intercourse in the tent—all seem intense because they constitute an honest story about a man who discovers who he is and what he wants to do with his life. It is a long story, but only great stories have the justification of running as long as possible in order to enjoy more in their beauty. "Dances with Wolves" is Costner's magnum opus—a movie with an aura. Rarely do you get a chance to see an almost perfect film. This is one of them. The three hour version is very good, but the four hour version is a masterpiece.


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