The film Dances with Wolves is directed by Kevin Costner, who also plays the main character. The film was released on the 9th of November 1990, and has high production values. It has received 7 Academy Awards (1990) and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture. The music is composed by the award winning composer John Barry and the film is based on the author Michael Blake’s novel by the same name.
John Dunbar, a Union army Lieutenant, tries to commit suicide after a serious injury. He is transferred to the western frontier, to fort Sedgwick. Because of a series of unfortunate happenings he is left on his post alone, with no one joining him. Dunbar eventually becomes friends with the Sioux Indians, but their relationship is awkward and confusing mainly caused by the language barrier. However, their relationship slowly develops into something strong and eventually they consider him as one of their own. Dunbar helps the tribe find and hunt buffalos, and this makes him a highly respected man. He falls in love with and marries a white woman, who had been adopted by the Indians as a young orphan, and the Indians give him the Indian name Dances with Wolves.
Dunbar is afraid that the Union Army is after him, and when he returns to the fort to collect a journal, which contains crucial information about the whereabouts of the tribe, he is violently arrested as a traitor. He is unwilling to cooperate and is to be taken to Fort Hay’s to be executed. Fortunately members of the tribe manage to save him and take him with them. Dunbar decides to leave the Indians because he is now considered a traitor and a fugitive by the Union Army. He fears that this might attract unwanted attention from white soldiers and thereby lead to the destruction of the tribe. The Sioux Indians manage to escape before the soldiers arrive.
The film mainly illustrates the life of the Sioux Indians, and what the main character experiences while befriending and living with the Indians. The action primarily takes place on the prairie, where the Indians live and where all the battles take place. The fact that the action takes place just here gives the viewer a much greater experience and makes the violent scenes seem more violent, and the other way around. The film illustrates historical events which took place around the 1960s. The American Civil War is illustrated to a certain degree, but mainly the challenges of being a native population when people don’t accept you and the trouble of being accepted by a native population, is illustrated.
The Sioux Indians is portrayed as a harmonic people, in contrast to the Pawnee tribe. They know how to take care and preserve everything around them and only turn to the use of weapons if there is a genuine need.
The film has a great number of characters, but the most illustrated was Lt. John Dunbar and the white woman Stands with Fists. Dunbar undergoes a great transformation in front of the director’s camera. He starts up as a defeated military man, who tries to commit suicide to escape his sorrows, and ends up as a completely different person. He learns how to live in harmony with nature and how to make the most of what he has. He also changes a great deal on his personal level. He gets new values and learns how to appreciate his life more. As he transforms as a person, his physical appearance also changes. His strict uniform is replaced by Indian clothes and his relatively short hair grows longer and his moustache, which might have given him a more hostile appearance, is removed. All this makes him look younger and stronger, and more sympathetic.
Dunbar’s wife, Christine, was taken in by the Indians as a young orphan and given a new chance in life. She was accepted by the tribe, and given Indian cloths and an Indian name, but still there is something about her which makes it clear that she isn’t fully like them. A good example of this is her hair, which is untidy and big, in contrast to the Indians`, which is straight and smooth; often held back in braided pigtails. When Dunbar arrives she is till mourning her dead husband, but his arrival helps her accept her husband’s death and gives her a new prospective on life.
The music plays an important part in making the film a great experience and is used to set the right mood. Indian music was mainly used to express happiness and played when the Indians had a victory, while other kinds of music is used to make things seem more dramatic and more thrilling to watch. In addition, the film also contained a number of symbols with different meanings. Wolves, for example, were used as a symbol of peace, but also as a warning of something worrying about to happen.
I, personally, thought the film was great and I loved the way the film never went boring. Even though the film was long, stretching over more than three hours, there was always something happening which kept your mind occupied. The relationship between Dunbar and the wolf, To Socks, and Dunbar and the Indians, was illustrated in a beautiful way, which made it easy to feel sympathy towards all of them. The only thing that was a bit to exaggerated was the way the white soldiers were illustrated. It made them seem like vicious people, who’s only desire was to hurt and torture people different from themselves. This was clearly done to amplify the contrast between the Indians and them, but I still felt like it was a bit too much. All in all I thought the film was beautiful and well presented.