Screen Analysis 2 Essay Example


Dance with Wolves

Dancing with Wolves is among the most significant films to have been produced by Hollywood. It was first released in 1990 with the producer being Kevin Costner. The film reveals the culture of the Native Americans in dominant American culture. The main actor of the film is Lieutenant John Dunbar who is posted in South Dakota after receiving an award for being brave in the war. John then become friend with a Sioux tribe, Lakota an adopted their culture. He then becomes a lover of with a white woman named Stand With A Fist who had been adopted earlier on by tribe. Dunbar assists the tribe in fighting its enemy but when the army of the US comes occupies the area, he is imprisoned after being charged with treason. He manages to escape with other members of the tribe but later realizes that more conflicts with the government forces will occur if he continues staying with them. He departs from the community with his lover, Stands With A Fist. The screenplay encourages a greater comprehension, sympathy, as well as acceptance for the culture of the Lakota people. This idea is supported by various scenes and apart from that, the Lakota People’s familial bond and humanity are also revealed. Throughout the film, Dunbar is seen as being part of the Indians as he embraces the culture of the Indians. Within the film, both the Indians as well as Dunbar have equal curiosity as well as equal savage quality void (Blake 1991, p. 23).

When John Dunbar comes in contact with the US army, he perceive them to be abhorrent compared to his new found friendship with the Lakota People. John Dunbar was a hero of the civil war who becomes a valuable asset in the tribe of Lakota. He learns the tribe’s language, acts as a defense against its enemies and eventually marries a white lady who had been adopted by the tribe. The focus of the film is the personal journey taken by John Dunbar and it aims at looking at the conflicts that exists between the Native and the white American culture. A more abstract level is being suggested by the film. It is important to interpret the film in an abstract sense. The scene where Dunbar is captured by the US army reveals that Dunbar is being accepted to the white culture’s rule. He is perceived by the white as being arrogant, violent, as well as destructive. His journey reveals the conflict existing with the culture of the American white. The film is being expanded by the economy and power as the Lakota People criticizes the cultural value of the Americans. Apart from that, the film reveals that the native people of the US for instance the Sioux have a harmonious, mature, as well as beneficial relationship to nature as well as humanity compared to the immigrants from Europe (Tori 2011, p. 13).

Narrative Function

The story progresses through stages and its structure is through a journey, development, as well as narrative towards a certain end. This film for instance reveals the personal journey taken by Dunbar as being that of rebirth/death, meeting as well as negotiation (from misunderstanding of comic towards serious “trade”) ; bonding that results from buffalo hunt ‘trial’ and Pawnee attack; as well as the eventual assimilation through rebirth following his rescue from the white soldiers (Bordwell & Thompson 2013, p. 5).

What the filmmaker is trying to communicate

The filmmaker unifies all elements in the personal journey of Dunbar while he crosses from the culture of the white to that of the native people. The personal journey of Dunbar is reflected and keeps moving forward since he becomes assimilated into the culture of the Native Americans. The Dance with Wolves materials that help in creating its narrative are mainly digestive and they help in enlightening the audience about the life experiences lived in the great plains of Western America. The filmmaker does this to try to ensure the romantic part of the movie can be believed. The extra features of diegetic for instance its orchestral music, titles as well as the voice of Dunbar enhance the respect of the film for the oral traditions of the Native Americans (Tori 2011, p. 17).

Sound and music

In most cases, music is usually utilized to give emphasis to the scene’s intention or mood and it is also utilized to indicate the action which is to come. Music also implies as well as amplifies the characters’ mood as well as help in set the situation’s/scene’s tone. The themes of orchestral serve different purposes for the Lakota tribe, Pawnee, and the US soldier. The sound varies from the buffalo hunt excitement, the Great Plains’ grandeur, the Pawnees Warriors’’ sinister threat, among others. The film utilizes evocative sound (Bordwell & Thompson 2013, p. 25).

Special effects

Visual effects in some cases utilized graphics generated by computer. Dance with Wolves does not much of this and this assists in ensuring its realism is not being distracted. Among the lightings used in the film include the interiors and lighting sunset. When the modest effect for instance slow motion is utilized clearly, its effect on the prevalent realism of narrative is to ensure it is more enhanced and ensure that this brilliant utilization is further standing out, for instance Cisco’s death. The unfolding of the story is in stages and is told through the recording of Dunbar regarding his journey of life. The film also portrays the positive side of the Native Americans’ culture (Tori 2011, p. 28).

The audience of the film is left with a feeling of satisfaction towards its end. The sequence of opening poses various paradoxes for the audience ensuring that the entire narrative is in motion. The positioning of the cameras is in such a way that we are getting the scene’s limited viewpoint. The sound as well as the music utilized in the opening sequence ensures that our involvement and the settings are reinforced with the character. Once outside, various shots introduces us to US soldiers who were in uniform (BLAKE 1991, p. 23).

Through the editing, it is clear that the main character is responsible for the horse and this is further reinforced because he is perceived riding the horse. The narrative mainly features the classic narrative with the film’s main action revolving around John Dunbar and what he goes through forms the narrative’s structure. The audience is kept in suspense since they have a feeling that massacre will occur towards the film’s end the suspense aids in sharpening the anticipation of what to expect next. Editing enhances this fear since were are cutting forwards and backwards between the searching soldiers and the Indians. The western icon is utilized by the director (Costner) which upsurges the audiences’ expectations (Bordwell & Thompson 2013, p. 30).

Sound and Music

The music is the film is low although there appear threatening rolls of drums in the background. Editing is essential in this film especially when it comes to action sequences. In the hunt for buffalo for instance, careful editing ensure that the audience become unaware of when they perceive buffalos that are real and when the animals are mock-ups. Apart from that, editing provides a feeling of action and speed to the sequence as well as in Pawnees attack on the village of the Indian. The camera is involved in the sequence especially when the film comes to the end where John is being rescued by the soldiers. Confusion is also created by the editing when John’s guide is attacked by Pawnees. The main character, John is linked to the other characters in the Lakota Tribe since he becomes assimilated into their culture (Costner, Blake, Barry, Mcdonnell, & Greene 2004, p. 43).

Space: The film shows open plains evoking the vastness of the west.


The shots are in teepee as indicated by the dark backdrop, warm front light, as well as the big close-up. The scene has very few lines with no objects that are manmade including fences, roads and power-lines, providing a linear perspective. Apart from that there has been the utilization of the aerial perspective through the utilization of telephoto lens, ensuring that the background and the foreground are brought together. Apart from that, the filmmaker also utilizes long shot when John and his love leave the village. Each film’s shot is an expression of point of view which keeps on changing in this film. The film is a mixture of extreme close-up as well as long-shot. The camera is in continuous motion to as well as from the subject (Tori 2011, p. 23).

Various camera movements are observed including the horizontal (trucking), retreat and forward movement (dolling), as well as vertical movement (craning) and these movements helps in enlarging the frame of the film’s space. The camera in this film pans vertically, to the right as well as to the left. The pan has been utilized in dance with wolves’ film. While the men are parting ways with their loved ones as well as families, the cameras are perceived to shift from one warrior to the next. Slow motion is also utilized to show the death (Bordwell & Thompson 2013, p. 35).

Lenses: The film combines both the telephoto as well as the wide lenses.

Angle: The shooting occurs at a lower angle and this is through gradual shifting from telephoto to wide lenses.

Lighting and Color

Like color, various lighting styles can lead to various moods as revealed in the low-key as well as high key images. The film combines both the high as well as the low-key lighting. Natural lighting is also utilized to achieve the high-key lighting. The filmmaker has utilized warm color to present his theme. He has used the color as a way of setting the mood as well as the tone of the film. Apart from that, he uses washed out color as a way of symbolizing danger. The bright colors are especially used while John is with the members of the Lakota tribe hunting, and it symbolizes safety (Costner, Blake, Barry, Mcdonnell, & Greene 2004, p. 50).

Use of genre expectations

The film is of the western genre. Most of the Western film genre has treated Native Americans harshly. However, “Dance with Wolves” film approached the experiences of Native Americans with a new light. The film also leaves the spectators with the desire to keep on watching because of its characteristic sense of suspense. However, the film favors the main character by focusing on his point of view. However, the film acknowledges the spectators by creating an emotional atmosphere in its genre. The film manages to defy all the expectations and becomes among the most famous Hollywood films of all times, mainly because it shows the rich culture of the American Indians. The film also assumes numerous experiences that many individuals may not have thought it would achieve (Bordwell & Thompson 2013, p. 38).

Voice of Narration

The voice of the narration in this film help in clarifying as well as further exploring the transformation of Dunbar as revealed in the entire film. The narration’s irony is that the character does not show the eagerness to ensure the self-transformation, to ensure his immersion into the culture of Sioux, as well as assume the character he became. Apart from that, the character does not show any sign of passion in all the line readings of Costner. Additionally, it is not necessary to have the voiceover since the description given by Dunbar is of something that has already taken place. One of the ways in which the film could be improved is through the removal of some of the voiceovers as well as ensuring the pairing of the essential elements of the movie. Through the style of the film, the narration is helping in ensuring that our experiences are saved. The stylistic texture of the soundtracks is also a great contributor with the voiceover of Jordan as well as the effect and the music helping in the creation of exhilarating and rousing effect (Costner, Blake, Barry, Mcdonnell, & Greene 2004, p. 57).


BLAKE, M. 1991. Dance with wolves. Chivers.

Bordwell, D. & Thompson, K. 2013. Film Art: An Introduction (10th Rev Ed). Sydney: McGraw-Hill

Costner, K., Blake, M., Barry, J., Mcdonnell, M., & Greene, G. 2004. Dances with wolves anse avec les loups. [Paris], Pathé vidéo, [éd., distrib.].

Tori, J. 2011. Dance with the wolves. Jazz Slovenia 2011.