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Dances with Wolves

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Dances with Wolves

Tera Butler

ENG225- Introduction to film

Professor Daniel Burrello

February 8, 2015

Dances with Wolves

Westerns are stories of life and adventure in the American West a time period and way of life everyone should reflect on. Dances with Wolves(1990) is one of the most truth brought forward Westerns of our time, as it explores the ending of the Civil war and the embarks on the New Frontier that ultimately changed the way of life for most all Native Americans. This film is compiled with drama, love, loyalty, courage, and racism all with lasting impact on its audience. Directed by Kevin Costner in a simple cinematographic technique that allows the audience to experience the characters every move. This movie was written by Michael Blake and directed by Kevin Costner who also is the lead actor throughout the film. Other actors include Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney Grant, and Floyd Red Crow Westerman. The story starts with a wounded Civil War soldier about to have his foot amputated when he makes an attempt at his life by stealing a horse and running recklessly across the open battlefield nearly getting shot. The build from this scene is that the soldiers fighting see his act of desperation and encouragement and a distraction and use the fact that the enemy is so focused on shooting him off his horse that they never see the final attack coming. The end of this scene Kevin Costner throws up his arms and glides with the horse like they were one in a full gallop and is deemed a hero and the general not only gives him the horse(Cisco) but also lends his personal surgeon to save his foot. This is the start to a beautiful and emotional story that builds into a love story between the soldier, a white Indian woman, and the entire Lakota tribe. The bond between the soldier and his new found loves causes him to be seen as a traitor to the union soldiers that come to his post. Ultimately he turns his back on the whites and continues on as a Lakota member and carries their given name "Dances with Wolves". This film is presented chronologically for the most part with an exception to the flash back of how the white woman came to live with Lakota tribe; this effect contributed greatly to the build of beauty and loyalty of the entire story. The plot to this amazing film is built around the courage and desperation of a wounded Civil War soldier when he is sent on an assignment to build a ready post for the incoming union soldiers in an untamed Indian infested territory only to find upon arrival that there was no post at all, only a dilapidated building and infested waters. In his attempt to ready this post he has no interaction with people, no dialogue, until some curious critters and Indians come to see the changes and meet the white man. The solider becomes friends and is invited back to the tribe to meet the chief after he finds a mourning widow white Indian woman and attempts to return her to the tribe. The building process takes him on the journey that becomes a love story and he turns his back on his own people. Dances with Wolves has several themes that give a message to be taken away from the film. The major themes of the film Dances with Wolves are loyalty and betrayal, racism, and love and friendship. The theme of this movie really gives the viewer a lot of insight into becoming a better human being. In the beginning of the film the cinematography gives us the visual data needed to assume that all the soldiers and the medical personnel are exhausted from a long battle. When the doctors take a break from amputating Lt. Dunbar’s foot it gives him a moment to think, and in that moment he decided it was not going to happen. He then heads back out into the field with fellow comrades and is then told that no one knows what to do to end this stand off because nobody will be the first to cross the field. Lt. Dunbar then makes the crazy decision to end it all, his life included if need be, and he mounts the closest horse and bolts across the field being shot at and missed multiple times. With the general watching, a distraction has been created by the Lt. and his fellow soldiers’ blaze in and conquers the enemy while they are over focused on taking out the suicide rider. The General dubs Lt. Dunbar a hero and rewards him with his own personal surgeon, his brave horse “Cisco”, and re-stationed anywhere he chooses. This entire scene builds up the loyalty of the U.S. military toward the Lt. for his service and bravery and for his loyalty to the Army. The lighting in this scene is very smoky like tired old gun smoke from the muzzleloader blasts back and forth, but this gives us an idea of the loyalty he displays by pulling on his boot and making one last go at it in spite of the pain and exhaustion. Another great example of loyalty in this film is when the peasant hunter and Lt. Dunbar arrive at the abandoned and dilapidated Fort Sedgwick, despite the obvious disarray he demands to stay and prepare a post. This is true grit loyalty displayed the Lt. and the props being all fallen and in ruins and the water supply tainted with dead deer corpses really help us see this fact clearly; he is a dedicated man. Even in the next few weeks of work and loneliness the scenes are set in bright vivid sunshine with lots of brilliant colors that gives off a very comfortable, peaceful, and happy vibe. The loyalty that Lt. Dunbar expresses to his new friends is easily seen by the audience through great acting and props. When the Sioux show their loyalty to Lt. Dunbar by rescuing him from the betrayal of his own people who had intended to kill him because he had befriended these great people thought of as the enemy. And even after the rescue, the Lt. decides to turn himself in to the Army to protect his new found friends from a brutal death; this is the ultimate sacrifice to prove his loyalty to the tribe. The scenery had changed drastically at this point in the film and the snow had started to fall in the mountain areas giving the feeling of sadness and loss. There were several scenes that display the love and friendship between Lt. Dunbar and several characters in the movie. The first real bond created with fury and trust is the one he makes with his loyal friend “Cisco”; even the horse shows loyalty to the Lt. by continuously breaking free from his capturers and returning. The next love and friendship bond is made between the Lt. and the lone wolf he names “Two Socks”, their relationship grew on screen with sweet melodies in the back ground and beautiful intense coloring in the daylight. Next was the Sioux holy man “Kicking Bird”, these two shared many moments of on screen tension while deciding if they could trust one another? Several scenes include set designs and costumes that begin to show the Lt. becoming one of the Sioux himself. The next and most profound love and friendship comes with “Stands with a fist”, She was a white woman taken by the Pawnee Indians and left to die before being found by “Kicking Bird” and brought to live with the people; this is all learned through a flash back scene used to explain this incident as she remembered it. Lt. Dunbar eventually becomes friends with the entire family and is loved by all. The Sioux demonstrate these emotions better than any other group in the film and they build powerful connections through harmony and order. There is a strong bond within the band and they give strict obedience to the elders. Each member is treated with dignity and individuality is profoundly respected. The culture succeeds because of this atmosphere of trust, fellowship, and love. Finally we get to another terrible yet obvious theme which is racism. This is most propounded by the way the white man portrays all Indians as beggars and thieves. Even when the soldiers realized Lt. Dunbar was a white man, a soldier as well, they disregarded all that because of the Indian attire he had on. Hate for the Indians ran deep back then and still in some cultures today. The true misunderstandings of man was delivered to the audience throughout this movie through scenes, dialogue, and set design. The director shows us deep into the Sioux’s hearts and helped us all see that they were a warm, family oriented culture that wanted peace. They were the original horsemen of our time, they were excellent hunters that never took more than they needed and did not kill senselessly. There is one scene with dialogue between “Kicking Bird” and Lt. Dunbar where the Lt, is asked why he wants to fight the Pawnee? They have done nothing to him for him to need to fight over. This just proves their intent for peaceful living. The pain and sadness expressed through the acting performance of Kevin Costner when the soldiers shot and killed his horse “Cisco” helped us to see the big picture; he chose that place not by chance, but because he new he longed to be free, and the fellowship of the Sioux opened up a side to himself he knew was there all along, his true self. Lt Dunbar no longer existed; he had become “Dances with Wolves” and was a true Sioux Indian. In the movie Dances with Wolves nearly the entire movie was shot outside and in 80% of the film natural to high- key lighting was used. At the beginning of the film it opens to a battlefield with color desaturation and a smoky look of war. The tone in this scene is set by this display of less intense color to depict the sad, tired, and overall morbid tone of the Civil War coming to an end. As the movie moves on to “greener pastures”, so does the color intensity and the theme is then set to be a much happier one than the beginning. The benefits of these color and lighting transitions gives the audience the same emotional feel as the character and helps to develop mood to each scene. The cinematographer does a great job keeping the shots in a wide-angle lens to show the vast emptiness of the plains. In the scenes when the Indians are watching the Lt. you can see a color contrast with less saturation of color that when the shots are taken from the eyes of the Lt. The lighting goes to low-key in the night scenes inside the tee-pees, and they use ground or below lighting in the campfire scenes. Both of these give the audience the feeling that they are there with the characters and become part of the movie. The lighting also changes again in the buffalo scenes as the hunters prepare for the harvest and the fog added to the scene gives off the sense of nerves and courage. The western genre typically uses black and white or low-key lighting to depict good and evil characters and up coming scenes of conflict, the differences here are not that great as the Indians and the Lt. become friends and prepare for the attack of the U.S. Military. Most westerns use the high-key lighting and wide-angle lens to show just how vivid the color contrasts of blue sky meets green grassy plains in the West before the plains were settled. This type of scenery helps build imagination in the watchers eye and gives them a greater sense of the theme and tone in the films. If Dances with Wolves would have been shot in low-key lighting throughout the entire movie, there would not have been a build up of the happiness and freedom that he felt as he explored this wild untamed territory. In the movie Dances with Wolves there are several scenes of narrative non-diegetic sound created by Kevin Costner’s character narrating the events as he is writing them into his diary. There are several scenes of dialogue between soldiers in the beginning, between Lt. Dunbar and his escort to the outpost, and then between the Lt. and the Indians. This narrative style sound helps the audience feel and understand everything that is going on in each scene and even adds some details of emotion that the Lt. is feeling at different times. The overall movie I believe is made more interesting and seems more real because of this style of sound. There are also subtitles in the counsel scenes amongst the Indians and during translation between the Lt. and other members of the tribe. Another sound is the sound effects made by the animals and the thundering hooves of the buffalo in the hunt scene, or the sounds of the guns and the arrows as the whiz by. All these sound effects bring the movie to life and give us the feeling that we are there and can almost smell the dew. The music and score in this movie is special to me and in my mind is perfect. The score is familiar and with a Western genre feel , and the sound effects also give me the same feelings I used to get when watching westerns with my grandfather, the tease score telling us the Indians are approaching and the sounds the rifles make, even the squeaks of the leather saddles. Dances with Wolves showed audiences inside the Native American family’s lifestyle and honor system; this was the first film to depict the Native Americans as anything other than murdering, thieving savages. The idea was just this, to display them as a tight knit family bonded and working together as a well oiled machine to keep their way of life thriving; they were even willing to make peace with the whites to protect their beloved way of life. Those images will be forever etched in our thoughts. In conclusion, people who love a good western filled with great acting, beautiful scenery, talented directing, and lots of amazing characters, Dances with Wolves is a must see film. This film is compiled with drama, love, loyalty, courage, and racism all with lasting impact on its audience. Directed by Kevin Costner in a simple cinematographic technique that allows the audience to experience the characters every move. Dances with Wolves(1990) is one of the most truth brought forward Westerns of our time, as it explores the ending of the Civil war and the embarks on the New Frontier that ultimately changed the way of life for most all Native Americans.

References:
1. Costner, K. (Director). (1990). Dances with wolves [Video file]. United States. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi3236012057/
2. Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2014). Film: From watching to seeing (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
3. Skoool.ie :: Exam centre. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.skoool.ie/skoool/examcentre_sc.asp?id=345
4. Grant, B.K. (2012). Film Reader IV. University of Texas Press-Performing Arts.

Reflection

As I have always had a passion for cinema and great films this class came as an amazing tool to learn how to analyze these films. The way I view movies will forever be changed but in a good way, because now I have a clearer understanding of how a scene gets edited and why the lighting is a certain way in a particular shot. The theories presented in this class have opened my eyes to all that it takes to make a great film, and most importantly the director’s contribution to how the film will impact society. The director has the picture embedded in their mind and the feelings surrounding it, the art to it all is being able to choose the right actors for the roles of the characters in order to give the audience the true meaning of the film. Some simple editing techniques or lighting, even music scores can affect the overall impact and message the director is trying to relay. When we learn to analyze films to this degree, we are not only watching with more understanding of the work involved to make it all happen, but we are able to better understand the intentions of the director as to what they are trying to say; the big picture. The skills developed in this class consist of deeper understanding of how something works and is produced by breaking down each element and understanding them each individually to build the big picture. This skill could be called a better eye for detail, and is much needed trait in many if not all fields. There is a lazy way to see things and take them for granted and then there is a true understanding through analysis, and I feel that is the main skill adapted here. My degree goals consist of doing wildlife research and I believe this class has helped me develop my analysis and deeper understand skills.

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...Ethical Dilemmas Workshop Instructor’s Notes Scene 1 First Knight (50:05-51:57) Lancelot has just run the gauntlet to win a kiss from the Queen. King Arthur summons Lancelot and explains the meaning behind the round table. What ethical principles are being used and which principles are being abused? The ethical principles being used: the Individualism View, Government Requirements View, the Utilitarian Principle, and the Risk Aversion Principle. The ethical principles being abused: Personal Virtues View. Scene 2 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1:38:32-1:42:23) Spok has just risked his life to save the lives of the crew and the ship. What ethical principles are being used and which are being abused? The ethical principles being used: the Utilitarian Principle, Religious Injunctions Principle, and Risk Aversion Principle. The ethical principle being abused: the Individualism View. Scene 3 Star Trek III: Search for Spok (1:36:51-1:39:57) The ship’s crew has just risked their lives to save the “reincarnated” Spok. What ethical principles are being used and which principles are being abused? The ethical principle being used: the Utilitarian Principle with a very long-term perspective. The ethical principle being abused: Risk Aversion Principle, the Slippery-slope Principle. Scene 4 Tommy Boy (1:23:46-1:24:45) ......

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Iron Bonding

...Alan Buczynski Iron Bonding I just don't get it.” We were up on the iron, about 120 feet, waiting for the gang below to swing up another beam. Sweat from under Ron's hard hat dripped on the 'beam we were sitting on and evaporated immediately, like water thrown on a saW1a stove. We were talking about the "men's movement" and "wildman weekends." "I mean," he continued, "if they want to get dirty and sweat and cuss and pOW1d on things, why don't they just get real jobs and get paid for it?" Below, the crane growled, the next piece lifting skyward. I replied: "Nah, Ron, that isn't the point. They don't want to sweat every day, just sometimes." He said: "Man, if you only sweat when you want to, I don't call that real sweatin." Although my degree is in English, I am an ironworker by trade; my girlfriend, Patti, is a graduate student in English literature. Like a tennis ball volleyed by two players with distinctly different styles, I am bounced between blue-collar maulers and precise academicians. My conversations range from fishing to Foucault, derricks to deconstruction. There is very little overlap, but when it does occur it is generally the academics who are curious about the working life. Patti and I were at a dinner party. The question of communication between men had arisen. Becky, the host, is a persistent interrogator: "What do you and Ron talk about?" I said, “Well, we talk about work, drinking, ah, women.” Becky asked, "Do you guys ever......

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