Thursday, July 02, 2009

Scorp's favorites - 4 - Dances with Wolves


I am a fan of Kevin Costner for a long time. Amazingly, the movie I saw to become his fan was not a critically acclaimed one, like ‘The Untouchables’ or ‘The Bodyguard’ or ‘Waterworld’ or ‘Wyatt Earp’ or ‘Open range’ or JFK’ or many more, but a cheesy action flick named ‘3000 Miles to Graceland’. I saw it after a year of its release (2002) and immediately became a fan of this talented actor. The character he plays (Murphy) in the film is a memorable one to me, and I still remember how angry Murphy will be when one mentions any jokes about Elvis Presley in the film. He holds a ‘connection’ to Presley in the movie.

Well, this post is about ‘Dances with Wolves’ and not ‘3000 miles to Graceland’. Hence, we will see about the masterpiece movie which he has directed.

‘Dances with Wolves’ is originally a screenplay written by Michael Blake. In the book ‘Four screenplays’ by Syd Field, Syd writes about the film in detail. He explains about how the screenplay was written and how Costner kept supporting Blake while he finished it, and how Costner decided to make the film and asked Blake in turn to write the novel. Costner supported Blake coz it was Blake’s novel, named ‘Stacy’s Knights’ which was made in to a film, and it starred a young Costner, in the early years of his movie career.

Blake finished the novel after much struggle, and when it was published, it attracted a very limited audience. Then, Costner started to film the screenplay. It was the year 1990 when ‘Dances with Wolves’ was released. Costner made his directorial début. The film won 7 Oscars including the best director Oscar for Costner. Considered to be one of the epics on the Sioux tribes of the Red Indians.

The movie begins at a hospital. It’s the period of the American Civil war. We see Lieutenant John .J. Dunbar. His leg has to be amputated, since it’s badly injured. But, Dunbar looks at the other soldiers wriggling in pain after their amputation, and he runs out, steals a horse and heads straight to the field where the gun battle is on, trying to commit suicide by getting trapped among the gunshots.

Seeing Dunbar fearlessly heading towards the enemies, the union troops are rejuvenated, and they start attacking the confederates, ultimately winning the battle. Dunbar is awarded the horse and is named as a hero. He is then offered the choice of his favorite posting, by the union General.

Dunbar asks to be posted at the western frontier. The reason – he wants to visit and feel the frontier which will lose its nativity – the army is planning to launch an attack on the Indians. He goes to a Fort – Fort Hays – to report to the major about his posting, and the drunk major shoots himself after assigning orders to Dunbar. Dunbar leaves the fort with a wagon driver named Timmons, carrying fresh supplies of food and ammunitions to his assigned post. He has to report to one Captain Cargill at Fort Sedgwick which is in the western frontier.

Dunbar finds the Fort Sedgwick deserted. He asks Timmons to leave and starts to set up his own camp. He sees a wolf which he names as ‘Two Socks’, because of the color of its legs. Timmons gets caught and scalped to death by the Pawnee Indians in the frontier, and Dunbar, unaware of the impending danger, starts to explore his surroundings. Once, while bathing in a nearby pool, Dunbar sees a Sioux Indian – the leader of the Sioux tribe named Kicking Bird approach his camp. After seeing Dunbar running towards him from the pool naked, the Indian is frightened and runs away. Dunbar immediately prepares the camp to face the battle – he sets up guns and prepares hideouts.

The Indians try to steal Dunbar’s horse but in vein. After seeing all these ‘not so rosy’ incidents, Dunbar decides to visit the Sioux village to improve relationships. While Dunbar nears the village, he encounters ‘Stands with a fist’, an English girl who’s been brought up in the village by Kicking Bird and his wife. She tries to cut her hands and legs in order to follow a traditional custom of mourning for her dead husband, but faints since she has lost blood. Dunbar brings her to the village. The villagers are frightened by his arrival, and Dunbar leaves.

The leaders of the village hold a meeting to discuss about Dunbar and decide that he must be observed. The next day, Kicking Bird goes to Dunbar’s camp, and Dunbar greets the convoy with coffee. Eventually both the parties become friends, but there is one thing which stands as a barricade – the language barrier. Since ‘Stands with a fist’ was born English, Kicking Bird assigns her to translate whatever Dunbar says, and she reluctantly agrees.

Meanwhile, Dunbar helps the village when he tells them about a huge herd of Buffalos. The Sioux hunt the herd along with Dunbar, and Dunbar kills many buffalos with his gun, and this act of Dunbar makes him a hero among the tribes. The minute difference of Dunbar reluctantly becoming a hero among his people in the war, and now Dunbar happily becoming a hero among the Sioux is captured well in the movie.

Dunbar becomes an inseparable part of the Sioux from then on, and he slowly learns the language too, with the help of Stands with a fist. They both fall in love gradually, and Kicking Bird gives her permission to come out of her mourning and to marry Dunbar.

While Dunbar one day plays with ‘Two Socks’, the wolf, the Sioux see this and name him as ‘Dances with Wolves’.

While the majority of men from the Sioux camp go for a war with the Pawnee Indians, Kicking Bird makes Dunbar stay in the village as a protection for the women and children. One day, while a Pawnee army comes to attack the camp, Dunbar facilitates killing the army with the help of his buried guns at his fort. While Kicking Bird returns, he learns everything, and the marriage of Dunbar with ‘Stands with a fist’ happens.

While Dunbar finally reveals to Kicking Bird that the white men will soon start coming like waves to attack and kill the tribes, Kicking Bird plans to move the village to the winter camp. Dunbar, while shifting, realizes that he has left his journal back in the camp, which contains all the information about his tryst with the Sioux. He runs to the port, and finds a battalion of white soldiers. They kill Dunbar’s horse and they torture Dunbar, asking him to tell the location of the Sioux.

While Dunbar is taken to the Fort Hayes, the Sioux attack the convoy and they rescue Dunbar. Dunbar goes to Kicking Bird, telling him that Dunbar’s presence will always attract the white men, and it will be a risk to the Indians. Reluctantly, Kicking Bird agrees to leave Dunbar behind. Dunbar and his wife ‘Stands with a fist’ leave the camp and we learn that after some years, the white men indeed arrived, and the Sioux Indians were killed. The movie ends.

“Dances with Wolves’ is a film which talks about relationships. It shows us a heartening display of how a man who wanted to die became rejuvenated while being with people he didn’t even know about. The story of John Dunbar. It won seven academy awards including best film, best director and best screenplay.

This is the highest grossing Western of all time, with a domestic take of $184 million in the US. It achieved this figure without ever reaching #1 on the box-office charts. Also, this is the first western to win a best picture Oscar after Cimarron (1931) – about 50 years between these two movies. – (thanks IMDB)

See Dances with Wolves and get a hold of the realistic display of the treatment of the native tribes of America, during the 1860s.

See the trailer here.


6 comments:

King Viswa said...

Scorp,

This happens to be in My List of top western Movies along with the 1962 Alomo. In fact this movie will be in my all time favourite list as Number 2 just behind the shawshank redemption.

This movie is poetry in motion, just to summarise in a sentence.

I thought you would write about the death scene of 2 Socks as well. It personally affected me a Lot.

P.S: Have you seen the Latest Version of the Movie (Directors cut with 45 minutes of extra footage).

the another thing that connected me was the artwork for the storyboard.

amazing movie and thanks for rekindling those memories.

The S c o r p said...

Viswa,

Great to know tat this's one of ur favs. Mine too. Infact, shawshank 's my all time no 1 too !

abt d death of two socks, I didn't write it coz I recently received some feedback tat givin d entire story in d review lessens d thrill of seein d movie.. Tat's y I left it for d viewer to see it and experience d emotion.

I saw d original Dvd a couple of years ago. But I dunno it'r d director's cut..

great to c another fan of this terrific flick !

King Viswa said...

Scorp,

//abt d death of two socks, I didn't write it coz I recently received some feedback tat givin d entire story in d review lessens d thrill of seein d movie.. Tat's y I left it for d viewer to see it and experience d emotion.//

I Couldn't agree more with that. Why i wrote about that scene in the first place was that it was one of the most important scenes in the film and was well captured as well.

the relationship that he shared with 2 socks was only to be felt.

And, Yes. i have seen that most of our fav movies are very similar. one day we will sit up with our individual top 10 movies and discuss.

The S c o r p said...

Absolutely. His relationship with 2 socks is a heartening one. And when two socks refuses to run away at the end, it juz melts our heart.. A great scene indeed..

Sure man.. We'll sit and talk abt comics, movies... everything.. with a glass of whiskey.. :)

Rafiq Raja said...

Heard a lot about the movie, which stars one of my favorite actor in Costner (ever since I watched WaterWorld, eventhough it was panned by critics), but never got a chance watch around yet.

Would do that this month, thanks for a good review, Scorp :)

காமிக்கியல்

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