I always feel the compulsive need to remind readers that there is a different between a bad movie and a movie that I don’t like. A prime example of this is my review of the English Patient. It took extreme talent to create the film and was very well done; I just didn’t enjoy watching it. The 1985 Oscar Best Picture winner Out of Africa is another example of a good film that I just did not like.
The film follows Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep), a Danish woman who is dealing with the death of her lover when the films opens. Forced into a marriage of convenience to Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke (Claus Maria Brandauer), Karen moves to Africa, to a colony in what is now Kenya, to be married and live on a farm. What should have been a very profitable dairy farm quickly turns into a risk when Karen’s new husband decides to plant coffee instead opening a dairy farm. Struck with wanderlust, Bror spends all of his time on safari leaving Karen home to work on the farm, meet the natives and get to know Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford), a war veteran. As Karen is left alone more and more, she gets more involved with members of a neighboring tribe (helping as much as she can), her farm (annoying the man who actually runs it) and Denys. The film focuses on Karen’s life on the farm as she deals with person tragedy, interacting with the natives and a budding relationship with Denys.
Shot on location, nearly every shot and frame of this film is a work of art. Peppered with shots of natural wildlife, the beauty hits its peak during a biplane safari, showing sweeping shots of the wilderness from the plane. Mixed in with this beautifully shot film is the uncommon love story that exists between Karen and Denys. Meeting at odd times and in odd places, the two slowly grow to know and love each other. While the slow moving, fictional biopic film did not grab my interest it is almost impossible not to be enthralled by Meryl Streep and Robert Redford whenever they are on screen. The film features two charming leads but also dances through and touches a number of issues including social classes, racism and gender roles.
Out of Africa received seven Oscars out of its eleven nominations, beating Kiss of the Spider Woman, Prizzi’s Honor, Witness and surprisingly (for me at least) the Color Purple for Best Picture. The beauty of and artistic skill that went into shooting the film was recognized as David Watkin won for Best Cinematography. Sydney Pollack, the film’s director, won Best Direction and the film also earned writer Kurt Luedtke an Oscar for Best writing. Its other three wins were in Best Music, done by John Barry, Best Art Direction-Set Direction and Best Sound. I found the film’s plot and story to be somewhat dry but the two lead actors as well as the stunning set worked to hold my attention throughout the two hour movie. I give this film a 7 out of 10, another film that I appreciate immensely but can’t really say that I like.