Out of Africa (film)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Out of Africa is a 1985 adventure drama film directed and produced by Sydney Pollack, and starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. The story based loosely on the autobiographical book Out of Africa written by Isak Dinesen (the pseudonym of the author Karen Blixen), which was published in 1937, with additional material from Dinesen's book Shadows on the Grass and other sources. This film received 28 film awards, including seven Academy Awards (see below: Awards and honors).

The book describes events during the period from 1914 to 1931 concerning the European settlers and the native people in the bush country of Kenya (in British East Africa). Its setting spans from seaside at Mombasa up to Nairobi, and from Mount Kenya to Kilimanjaro, as told from the lyrical, poetic viewpoint of Danish Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke. The book was continually in print during the 20th century, and it has been reprinted by many publishers, and in several different languages.

The book was adapted into a screenplay by the writer Kurt Luedtke, and directed by the American Sydney Pollack. Its stars were Streep as the Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke; Redford as Denys Finch Hatton; and Klaus Maria Brandauer (as Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke). Others in the film included Michael Kitchen as Berkeley Cole; Malick Bowens as Farah; Stephen Kinyanjui as the Chief; Michael Gough as Baron Delamere; Suzanna Hamilton as Felicity, who is based on the noted aviatrix Beryl Markham; and the model Iman as Mariammo.


The film opens in Denmark as an older Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) briefly remembers hunting in Denmark, then the years she spent mostly residing in Africa (1914–31, with the exception of a period when she had to return to Denmark for special medical treatment). Looming large in her memories is the figure of Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford), a local big-game hunter whom she met when she arrived in Africa to start what she thought would be a dairy farm in partnership with her husband, the Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke (Klaus Maria Brandauer). Things turn out differently for her than anticipated, since the blue-blooded but financially strapped Baron has used her money to purchase a coffee plantation - rather than a dairy farm. He also shows little inclination to put any real work into it, preferring to hunt wild animals instead. While from the beginning, their marriage is depicted as mostly symbiotic (her family has money, while the Baron has a title), Karen does eventually develop feelings for him, but she is distressed when she learns of his extramarital affairs. To make matters worse, Karen has contracted syphilis from her philandering husband, which at the time was a very dangerous disease. Now, the disease made it necessary for her to return to Denmark, for a possible cure using expert treatment with the new and experimental medicine Salvarsan, invented in 1910. This was before the discovery and development of penicillin or any other antibiotic usable against syphilis; she tells her husband to pack his things.

After she has recovered and returned to Africa, a relationship between her and Denys begins to develop. However, after many unsuccessful attempts at turning their affair into a lasting relationship, she realizes that Denys is as impossible to own or tame as Africa itself. Denys prefers the simple, African customs of the free, nomadic life of the Maasai tribe on the open landscape, rather than the European customs of luxury, ownership and titles. He criticizes Karen's viewpoint, "'"My Kikuyu, my Limoges, my farm.' It's a lot to own." But she responds, "I've learned there are some things worth having, but they come at a price, and I want to be one of them." Yet, still, Denys will not commit to marriage, or to giving up his free lifestyle. Karen remains in her large house equipped with fine European furniture. She also decides that she needs to open a school to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, and also some European customs, to the African people of her area. On the other hand, Denys prefers adventures in the outdoors, and he leaves the natives to their own devices. The harvesting of her coffee plants, this year, has produced her best crop, but overnight a devastating fire breaks out on the plantation. Her entire coffee factory, and all the coffee beans, are consumed in the fire. Having invested all her parent's money, she tries all banks in town, but no one will risk a loan. In desperation, she goes to the government and is granted shelter for her hundreds of Kikuyu workers.

Preparing to leave Africa, she must sell everything left, and she empties the house of all her luxurious items for a rummage sale. Denys visits her that night, in the empty house, and she says, "You were right: this is how it should have been all along". She continues, "I've got this little thing that I've learned to do lately." She then explains about remembering all the good times in the past, "How good it all was, and when I'm certain that I can't stand it, I go one moment more. And then I know, I can bear anything." She has a final dance with Denys, but he promises to return in a few days, to fly her out of Africa to Mombasa at the seacoast, for her voyage home.

Denys's upcoming death in a plane crash is foreshadowed in this film by the tale of Maasai people who reportedly would always perish in captivity. At his Christian funeral in the Ngong Hills, as Karen prepares to toss a handful of soil into the grave in the European ceremony, she hesitates and cannot do it, then she turns away from the other Europeans, and instead, she brushes her hand through her hair, as is the African custom. With Denys gone, the head servant, Farah, takes Karen to the station, for the train to Mombasa. Settled back in Denmark, she receives a letter from a friend, "The Maasai have reported to the District Commissioner at Ngong, that many times, at sunrise and sunset, they have seen lions on Finch-Hatton's grave" in the Hills. She supposes that Denys would have liked that, "I must remember to tell him." She never returned to Africa.

After being away for more than 20 years, Karen became an author and a storyteller, writing about her experiences and letters from Africa, and remembering.


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Out of Africa (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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