Dances With Wolves (1990)

Massive, epic, enormous are just a few words that come to mind when I try to describe the size and scope of this picture. More than two decades after its theatrical release Dances With Wolves remains a grandiose Hollywood entertainment so rich in its western americana mythology so beautifully narrated and directed by Costner that whatever arguments or inhibitions one may have, the film’s impecable images have an awe inspiring quality that rarely one has the chance to experience on the big screen.

As I came close with Hollywood’s liberal ideology and guilt feelings about the Indians I experienced an amazing  piece of narrative entertainment.  From John Barry’s majestic score to everyone involved there is no doubt that this is a supremely crafted film.  I would like to pinpoint one of the movie’s key artists.  The Australian cinematographer Dean Semler previously known for his acid work in Mad Max 2 and 3 with George Miller. Semler in collaboration with Costner has managed to light this picture so beautifully that every shot every angle every movement of the camera every nuance of the lens is bathed in a masterful use of light and color that is irresistable for the eyes to let go. It’s like I watched a compilation of the best shots. In fact every shot is a best shot. Costner impresses with the choices he has made upon constructing and compositing frames of absolute balance, symmetry and motion but it is also Semler’s hyper-sensitive use of light that astonishes.

There is a genuine human quality that I rarely see nowdays in motion pictures. At its heart this is a movie that beats with unashamed sentiment in the great tradition of classic Hollywood melodramas and does so with love for its subject matter, story and faces surrounding it. From Mary McDonnell to Richard E.Grant to Graham Greene we come close with universal feelings of bondage, love and loyalty. Themes that belong in the stratosphere of the human psyche. Dances with Wolves deserves its status and needs to be seen and re-examined again.


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