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Out of Africa
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10 from PG votes
Release: 20 Dec 1985 /

Out of Africa

Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance
Director: Sydney Pollack,
Stars: , , ,
Synopsis: In 20th-century colonial Kenya, a Danish baroness/plantation owner has a passionate love affair with a free-spirited big-game hunter.

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Critic Reviews

This is one of those rare movies that has something for everybody and is nearly perfect in many respects. Many of the negative comments about the film here are one dimensional and fail to see the multiple levels on which the movie operates.

First, there's the political level: Colonial Africa before, during, and after World War II populated by all of Europe (and America), and Karen Blixen caught in the middle between Germany and England. Interestingly, the settlers are willing to die for their countries eventhough they have little idea why they are going to war, and communication between Kenya and Europe lags by months, not weeks.

There's the sociological level: White Europeans attempting to civilize and Westernize an essentially foreign land and people. I think the movie does a great job of intimating how the Kikuyus, the Somali, and Masai saw European settlers in their land - comical, enigmatic, and out of their element. Instead of fading into the background, the movie would fail without the simple wisdom of Farah who knows more than any of the white settlers in his land. ("This water must go to Mombasa". "God is great, Saboo"). Interestingly, Sikh Indians are brought to the English Gentlemen's club to act as servants and when Karen dares to enter the men's only den, it's the Sikh who is responsible for escorting her out; none of the English "gentlemen" have the balls or nerve to do it. An interesting observation on the English White man's view of the world before World War I.

Historically, the film portrays real people with some fidelity since all of the characters, even Farah and Kumante, were based on actual people; Kumante was even alive and consulted during the filming in 1982/3. The character of Felicity is based on Beryl Markham, a truly magnificent woman who wrote "West with the Night" which might even portray colonial Africa better than Isak Dineson did.

As a travel log, the movie works as well as any National Geographic since we see, (vicariously through Karen) as she watches a platoon of Masai warriers running through salt flats in full battle dress, as she learns about lions in wild, and how a herd of Elephants looks and sounds from a biplane.

Narratively, "Out of Africa" is not just a "chic flic" as someone posted, unless the poster thinks that all romances are essentially chic flics. I generally can't stand romances, but this operates not just as a romance between people (Karen and Blix, Karen and Dennis) but between people and place. The passion they felt for each other was matched or exceeded by their passion for Africa. When the movie was over, I too had fallen in love with Africa.

The movie can be watched simply for its Cinematography, editing, sound, and set design alone. What other movie integrates poetry by Coleridge and Houseman, Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, and the writing of Isak Dineson so easily that you barely notice it? Many scenes translate into still works of art: A bottle of wine and peaches on the hunting table, a Victrola playing Mozart in the African bush, a rainbow over raging falls, lions surveying the land from the Ngong hills.

Such a great and beautiful movie. One that I will watch over and over again until an opportunity to see Victoria falls comes my way.

By the way. I agree that the weakest link in the movie is Robert Redford as Dennis Finch Hadden since his accent is non-existent, but then again I thought that as an American in colonial England (as Hemingway was at this same time), it plays much better.

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