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Out of Africa Movie Review

karen denys awards maria

1985 – Sydney Pollack –

With beautiful cinematography, a grand musical score, and acting that cleverly portrays the complex Danish writer Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) and British hunter Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford), Sydney Pollack's award-winning film Out of Africa exquisitely captures the spirit of Africa, its natives, and the foreigners that attempt to call it home. Taking the story of Danish writer Karen Blixen's, who wrote under the pen name Isak Dinesen, stay in early twentieth-century East Africa, Kurt Luedtke creates a screenplay based on her novel Out of Africa and Judith Thurman's Isak Dinesen: the Life of a Storyteller. The film begins with a marriage of convenience to Baron Bror Blixen (Klaus Maria Brandauer), and Karen finds herself in Kenya single-handedly running a coffee farm. Although the marriage and farm are both failed ventures, her life is strengthened by the free-spirited safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton. Streep and Redford portray the multi-faceted characters Karen and Denys. We applaud Karen's independent spirit and determination but are made uneasy by her superficial, possessive, and controlling side. She works alongside the natives on her farm, takes a bullwhip to an attacking lion, leads a convoy of supplies through the treacherous bush country, yet insists on fine dining surrounded by her Limoges crystal, her china, and her appropriately prepared meals. At times Karen connects well with the natives, as shown in her ability to convince them of medical and educational needs. But she also insensitively insists that the house servant, Farah (Mallick Bowens), wear cumbersome white gloves. Symbolically, she later removes them from Farah after her attempts at taming her African farm have failed. Equally complex and contradictory is Denys, the skilled hunter who feels that a gramophone and Mozart are as necessary on safari as rifles.

On a grand scale, Out of Africa explores the issues of boundaries and ownership not only of a country, but of individuals as well. As the independent characters of Karen and Denys draw together, their personal boundaries begin to blur. Two scenes in particular capture this gently developing relationship. On safari Denys washes Karen's badly tangled hair and does so while quoting lines of poetry. Perhaps the greatest gift Denys gives Karen is a flight above East Africa. While zooming over the untamed land, wildebeest, and flocks of flamingoes, Karen receives a “glimpse of the world through God's eye—the way it was intended.”

Cast: Meryl Streep (Karen Blixen-Finecke), Robert Redford (Denys Finch Hatton), Klaus Maria Brandauer (Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke), Michael Kitchen (Berkeley), Mallick Bowens (Farah), Joseph Thaika (Kamante), Michael Gough (Delamere), Suzanna Hamilton (Felicity), Rachel Kempson (Lady Belfield), Graham Corwden (Lord Belfield), Leslie Phillips (Sir Joseph), Shane Rimmer (Belknap), Mike Bugara (Juma), Job Seda (Kanuthia), Mohammed Umar (Ismail) Screenwriter: Kurt Leudtke Cinematographer: David Watkin Composer: John Barry Producer: Sydney Pollack for Mirage Productions; released by Universal MPAA Rating: PG Running Time: 161 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1985: Screenplay, Art Direction/Set Decoration, Cinematography, Director (Sydney Pollack), Picture, Sounds, Score; Nominations: Actress (Meryl Streep), Costume Design, Editing, Supporting Actor (Klaus Maria Brandauer); British Academy Awards, 1986: Adapted screenplay; Golden Globe Awards, 1986: Film—Drama, Supporting Actor (Klaus Maria Brandauer), Score (John Barry); Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, 1985: Actress (Meryl Streep), Cinematography; New York Film Critics Awards, 1985: Cinematography, Supporting Actor (Klaus Maria Brandauer) Budget: $31M Box Office: $87M (domestic gross).

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