An epic story based on Baroness Karen Von Blixen’s amazing time spent in Kenya from 1914. We follow her as she adapts to her new surroundings, falls in love, and uncovers the beauty of her new world.
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OSCAR winner for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Musical Score, Best Sound, Best Adapted Screenplay
Sydney Pollack brought this wonderful true story onto the big screen and introduced this amazing woman to the rest of the world. The film was adapted from Judith Thurman’s “Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller” along with several books written by Karen Blixen, herself. After writing “Out of Africa”, Blixen started to accredit her books as Isak Dinesen, a pseudonym instead of her own. She continued to write an array of books based on her adventures in Kenya. In 1953 Blixen wrote a short story called “Babettes Feast” this was another one of her pieces that was adapted into a screenplay and brought to the screen, this time by Danish Filmmaker Gabriel Axel in 1987. This film also turned out to be success and ended up winning an Oscar for “Best Foreign Language Film” and a BAFTA for “Best Film not in the English Language” in 1988.
Karen (Streep) and Bror (Brandauer) have been friends for a long time now. They decide to get married in order to gain each others attributes. Karen comes from a wealthy family while Bror’s family carries a distinguished title. Karen will therefore become Baroness Von Blixen and Bror will have money to invest. They decide to start up a dairy in Kenya however at the last minute Bror decides that coffee would be a better investment. Karen packs up her things in Denmark and commences her journey to join her husband in Kenya. Karen isn’t your average lady she’s independent, smart and adventurous. She is a hard worker and as capable as any other female and male for that matter. These strengths of hers are clearly entailed throughout the film.
When Karen arrives, Bror takes her to her new home – a farm on the outskirts of Nairobi and just like the first lines in her book “Out of Africa” the film begins with the same famous words “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills”. She is not only introduced to a beautiful new world but also to an array beautiful people too. This is the beginning of something spectacular. Karen is blessed with a house full of servants especially the head of the household, Farah Aden (Bowens), who becomes a very close friend and confidante. A Kikuyu tribe also live on her land and in return help Karen with her plantation. At first the marriage between Karen and Bror seems to be going well. They actually become rather fond of each other but unfortunately Bror still cannot deny his wicked ways and finally this overwhelming affection he has for other women takes its toll. Their marriage finally comes to an end and almost a decade later, so does the coffee plantation. Karen stays on the farm and continues working on her plantation but unfortunately all her hard work and determination cannot foreclose the inevitable – the coffee would never grow the way it should.
Berkeley Cole (Kitchen) and Denys Finch Hatton (Redford) become frequent visitors of Karen’s house. They bring wine, music and keep Karen in very good company, both before after her divorce with Bror. Too wild and perhaps too eccentric for dull and dormant Britain, these two set out into the world and found thrill, comfort and beauty in Kenya. Finch Hatton certainly visited so frequently that he may as well have lived there. Karen and Denys became rather close and a romance surely did blossom. According to Karen Blixen’s biography though, the affections that Denys’s and Karen had for one another, were never really discussed nor were her marital problems with Bror. The decision to enhance these encounters in the movie was clearly made to make the story much more entertaining and appealing.
Sydney Pollack, like a fair amount of other directors was very fond of using the same actor in all of his films. In Pollack’s case it was Robert Redford that he would cast over and again. One of my all time favourite films is “The Way We Were” directed by Sydney Pollack, starring Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand – tragic but so good also similar traits to “Out of Africa”. I have always been a fan of Robert Redford however the one flaw in this film was that he played the British game-hunter, Denys Finch-Hatton without altering his American accent to a British one. I don’t know the reason behind this but only that Pollack was insistent that he wanted Robert Redford to play the role. Perhaps he didn’t have time to perfect the accent or perhaps his accent wasn’t very good. In Meryl Streep’s case, playing a character from Denmark was more challenging. I’m not entirely convinced by her accent but I must admit putting on a Danish accent is pretty near to impossible. The Danish accent is not as distinctive as perhaps, French, British, or even German is. Meryl Streep did an amazing job playing Karen Blixen. She even won an Oscar for her role in 1986.
Sydney Pollack is well-known for bringing great stories to life. After watching any of his films you always seem leave with a distinct memorable momentum. If you love grand pictures such as “Cold Mountain” or “The English Patient” well then “Out of Africa” will be an absolute gem. This film pretty much ran the Oscar’s dry in 1986 by winning an impressive amount of statues including “Best Picture”, “Best Director”, and “Best Actress in a Leading Role”. I was born in Kenya and lived there until I was nine. I even remember when the whole cast and crew came to shoot the movie. Kenya has this amazing grace about it and this film certainly brings its spark to the big screen.