Out of Africa

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I pretty much randomly watched this film. I had nothing else to do, and the title sounded interesting. I had no idea I would be stumbling upon such a beautiful story.

Out of Africa was released in 1985. It was loosely based on the memoirs of Karon Blixen, and was directed by Sidney Pollack. It is described as a romantic drama, but I don’t like that label, because in my experience of movies that usually contains a negative connotation. But Out of Africa is so full of depth that it has many themes that have nothing to do with romance, including imperialism, feminism, racism, and poverty.

Out of Africa follows the story of Danish woman Karon Blixen (Meryl Streep) who married to become a baroness in the early 1900’s and moved to Kenya to start a farm. In Africa, Karon is abandoned by her husband, and she manages the farm alone. However, a dashing American named Denis (Robert Redford) has caught her eye. But Denis loves solitude, and Karon questions his devotion.

I only have one complaint for this movie. It seemed needlessly long, lasting three hours. The Return of the King is one of my favorite movies, and it is about just as long, but the difference here is that I feel every scene in the Return of the King is needed (I’m sure there is someone out there willing to fight me on this. Bring it on!) However, in Out of Africa, I think quite a few scenes were unneeded. There was one scene in which Karon and her African workers are trying to use sand bags to block a flooding river that is near her farm. Their efforts fail and the flooding is not mitigated. Because of the old rule in films that if a character comes in and puts a gun on the wall, at some point in a movie, that gun has to be used, I figured that something was going to come of this scene, that maybe her crops would be ruined because of it. However, nothing refers back to it. The only purpose of this scene I can imagine is to establish that growing coffee in Africa is hard. Really? That is not exactly an esoteric idea here. A scene is not required to convey it so why are you wasting our time with it Pollack?

But there were many astounding things Out of Africa had to offer. The first that comes to mind is the breathtaking cinematography. It features incredible shots of the African landscape. There is one scene in which Denis is flying a plane over Africa. That two minute scene was some of the most beautiful scenery shots I have ever laid eyes upon, and I’m comparing this to Discovery Channel documentaries.

As far as the story goes, the character development was flawless. By the end, I felt I had known Karon for years. And Denis is such a brilliant character, which I credit to both the writing and Redford’s grand performance. Streep was also incredible, and her Danish accent never slipped (I know because I listen for it. When accents do slip in movies it bugs me to no end).

So please don’t be turned away. This movie is not a chick-flick. It is so much more. There is a reason it won 28 film awards including 7 Oscars. If you have three hours you need to kill (like I said, really freakin’ long) give this movie a try. I gladly award it with a 9.

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