Reading the Subtitles and Captions in Dances With Wolves

  • Hildi Tiessen
  • Paul Tiessen


DANCES WITH WOLVES INVITES THE VIEWER into the inner and outer worlds of Lt. Dunbar, alias Kevin Costner, alias Dances With Wolves. The audio-visual text of this film -- which ends with the "spine-tingling howl" of a wolf framed by a "great, yellow full moon" and, then, Dances With Wolves and Stands With A Fist (played by Mary McDonnell) walking together up a canyon trail, away from the camera which "slowly pulls back" -- precedes the coda-like pronouncement of the closing caption: "Thirteen years later, their homes destroyed, their buffalo gone, the last band of free Sioux submitted to white authority at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. The great horse culture of the plain was gone and the American Frontier was about to pass into history."(1) The epic-length text of Dances With Wolves invites the viewer to identify totally and unabashedly with the almost absurdly heroic and deliciously vulnerable child/man...