It’s been a long time since I watched Dances With Wolves, it definitely hasn’t happened since the turn of the century. But I remember when this one came out. Actually I remember before that, because I read the original novel by Micheal Blake (who wrote the screenplay) as well.
There was just something about this film when I saw it on the big screen that resonated within me, echoed, and I dragged a number of my friends to go see it with me. I loved the cinematography, the music – John Barry won an Oscar for it.
In fact the film walked home with seven Academy Awards, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Editing, and Best Original Score.
The story follows Lt. John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) on his new assignment, one he asked for, to see the western frontier before it’s gone. Cue sweeping landscapes and swelling scores. On his journey, not just an outward one but an inner one as well, he sees the effect the white men will have as they continue to encroach on the lands of the Native Americans.
This is something he’s guilty of as well, initially, seeing them as a villain, buying into the propaganda that had been spread about them, before realising they are a noble people who seem to live more at ease with the world than the invading force coming their way.
A sweeping epic of a film (and a wonderful scene stealing wolf named Two Socks?), Costner takes his time with the story, and lets each cast member shine. He stacks the cast with an amazing ensemble, Graham Greene (this was my first introduction to this wonderful actor), Mary McDonnell, Rodney A. Grant, Floyd ‘Red Crow’ Westerman, Wes Studi, and Maury Chaykin, and each of them play their essential role in the narrative that brings Dunbar and the audience to the realisation the horrors the white man has committed to the continent’s native peoples, and what a loss it was not to actively try to contact, and understand them.
A beautiful story, told with skill by Costner, who has a knack for capturing the feel of the frontier, and the film is filled with details of the life that many people lived as they explored the country that lay before them, but the inner journey for Dunbar proves to be the more stronger one.
It was this film that actually got me writing a journal, something I kept up for about seven years… This film definitely had an effect on me, and I loved revisiting it. It’s also, most likely, my favourite Costner film, followed by The Untouchables.
But all I have to do is hear that score and I’m transported not just into the movie, but so much of my life at the same time (that soundtrack was on repeat on my cassette player).