I watched Dances with Wolves for the second time last night. Great movie that works because of the breathtaking photography and panoramic views of the US prairie land. The story is not bad either.
However, the lead, US Army Lt. Dunbar (Kevin Costner) meets a white woman who has lived with an American Indian tribe since childhood (Mary McDonnell) and who is asked to interpret at a meeting between Dunbar and a tribal elder. Dunbar asks their names, and the woman–who has not spoken a word of English since being taken in by the tribe at around age 5–uses gestures to communicate words like “stand” and “fist”, but when asked if the Indian man is the chief of the tribe, she burbles out “oh no, he is holy man.”
I find it highly suspicious that a little girl would have the world “holy man” in her vocabulary but not a word like “stand,” “kicking,” or “fist.”
Another linguistic curiosity is Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, an historical action-adventure movie about a young man’s escape from his Mayan captors, all shot in the Yucatec Maya language, with English subtitles. It was written by Gibson and Farhad Safinia, and then translated into Mayan. That must have been quite an accomplishment for the translators, and quite a challenge for the actors. The only laugh I got from the language was when one of the bad guys is fatally bitten by a snake, and when another bad guy is asked to evaluate the situation, his diagnosis is “He’s fucked.”
Ah well, back to work.