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Out of Africa

A CINEMATIC VIEW

By Robert E Lauder | March 1986

Out of Africa is a mixed bag. Its good points are so good that I wish they were present in a bet­ter film, but its weaknesses finally outweigh the pluses.

Filming author Isak Dinesen’s literary compo­sition, Out of Africa, has long proven an obstacle to screenwriters. (Not having read Dinesen’s book, I have to take the film on its own terms.) Using Dinesen’s work and also two works about Dinesen, screenwriter Kurt Luedtke has put together a wind­ing tale of Karen Blixen, who in 1913-1914 ex­changed her family money for a title when she married Baron Blor Blixen. The two left Europe and went to Kenya to start a farm. Luedtke ex­plores the relationship between Karen and her hus­band, whom she eventually comes to love or at least like, and the relationship between Karen and the one true love of her life, Denys Finch Hatton, an aristocrat, war hero, white hunter, and aviator. It was from her 17-year experience in Africa that Blixen, under the pen name of Isak Dinesen, wrote her highly acclaimed stories of Africa.

The talent assembled for the film would seem to make Out of Africa a sure commercial and artis­tic success. Meryl Streep is certainly one of the finest contemporary film actresses, director Syd­ney Pollack is a gifted director, Robert Redford is a good screen actor, and Klaus Maria Brandauer (at least from his work on this film) seems to be a mas­ter at underplaying. With these four, could one ask for anything more? I think so. I would have enjoy­ed seeing a film with some dramatic impact, a work that had some power and force to it. But Out of Africa is flat and dull.

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