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Out of Africa
Robert Redford & Meryl Streep

 

Out of Africa

 

5 out of 5 stars =    Beyond this place there be dragons…

“Out of Africa” stands out as one of the most spectacular movies ever made. At the 1985 Academy Awards this movie won seven Oscars including Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Picture. It deserved all seven!

It is filled with romance, scenery, real-life struggles and the inevitability of fate. It is a journey into Africa and into love. The escape is in the hand of fate. This movie presents Africa as a paradise. The natural environment is harsh, yet unspoiled in this movie.

This is based on the true story of Danish writer Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) who left Denmark to marry German Klaus Maria Brandauer/Baron Bror Blixen (Klaus Maria Brandauer) and start a dairy in Kenya.

Some women do enjoy the security of a man looking after them, however Karen is different. She seems to desire companionship and offers her fortune in exchange for marriage. Her husband changes his mind about the dairy and instead they use her money on a risky venture to grow coffee. This is not a marriage based on an intense romance, in fact, Karen is marrying her lover’s brother.

Soon after they arrive in Africa, it becomes apparent this is not a satisfying marriage for Karen. Not only is her husband unfaithful to her, he gives her syphilis. Disease is not the only threat, she also has to fight floods and fire. There are lions which apparently try to attack Karen and Denys although I thought that was pretty unlikely in the situation.

I didn’t like the “hunter” aspects or when the two lions are killed, but if you watch at the end, I think even the lions forgive the hunter. When I’ve seen lions during the day they were normally napping in the shade. Apparently they had trouble getting the lions to act aggressive and there is information on the DVD explaining these details.

Karen finds acceptance in big game hunter Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford) who loves her ability to tell stories. He starts the stories and she completes them. I think he is impressed by her confidence and creativity. He sees who she really is. Her husband is obviously blind to this beautiful goddess he has taken to Africa.

She in turn is delighted by this interest and slowly allows him into her world. While Denys and Karen are a perfect match and as close to soul mates as possible, Denys is unsure of commitment and explains how a piece of paper won’t make him love her more. Meryl Streep and Robert Redford have chemistry, chemistry and more chemistry in this movie! They mostly share a few kisses, yet their relationship is on such a deep level, I think it could survive if they just told each other stories. The first time I saw this I wanted to be Karen and run away with Robert Redford, but I was very young then. ;)

What Karen seems to truly desire is a man who will sacrifice to be with her. She wants to be of value. Denys tells Karen she has confused “want” and “need.” This is an excellent portrayal of the gender differences. Man wants to be free to come and go and woman wants security, love and commitment. She wants to be treated with respect.

Denys “wants” Karen and Karen seems to “need” Denys. The question is not whether he will realize this in time before he loses her, but whether or not fate will turn their lives into a tragedy or allow them to form a true relationship. As Karen says:

“When the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers.”

Karen seems the surrender to her fate and is able to experience a brief moment of ecstasy in her life even though she is wounded from the experience.

When you view this movie, there are various elements which hint at the ending, yet I didn’t recognize them until viewing this the second time. This is a movie I watch every few years because I too once lived on a farm in Africa. It was not quite this romantic because I was still a child. This movie makes me terribly homesick because once we left Africa, we never went back. 

The best moment in the movie is when Farah asks Karen to build a very big fire so he will know where to find her. It is a moment so beautiful and poetic, I’ve not seen anything like it in any other movie. I appreciated this movie more now that I’m in my 30s and married than before when I was single and had just returned from Africa myself. This movie is contemplative and deals with complex issues.

Spectacular Scenery and Emotionally Satisfying.

~The Rebecca Review 

 

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