Classic Film Review: Out of Africa (1985)

And the Oscar Goes to:

Out of Africa, 1985

Directed by: Sydney Pollack

Starring: Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Klaus Maria Brandauer


Out of Africa is an epic romantic drama loosely based on the autobiographical book Out of Africa, written by Isa Dinesen (the used pseudonym for Karen Blixen, the main character). Karen (Meryl Streep, Kramer vs. Kramer) marries Baron Bror Blixen (Klaus Maria Brandauer) in Nairobi, British East Africa, in 1913, but it is a marriage of convenience, not of love. He needs money, she has money. They set up a coffee farm (despite initially planning a dairy cattle farm), and live out a way of life despite the falseness of their marriage. Eventually Karen falls in love with Denys (Robert Redford), a local big-game hunter; the fourth time in this countdown where a woman who is married, or about to be married (all of those weddings were for convenience, too), has fallen in love with another (after Titanic, Shakespeare in Love and The English Patient).

Meryl Streep is fantastic in this film, and she is brilliantly accompanied by Redford and Brandauer, who deliver performances worthy of being by her side. It becomes natural to assume her accent as that which she speaks in the film, and manages to bring out a variety of emotions, all appearing genuine and honest. The African servants, too, despite their lack of much dialogue, all act their job exactly as it needs to be.

However, personally this film felt a little long, and at parts it did feel like it was dragging. Considering the entire plot was Karen got married, she wasn’t in love, they had a coffee farm, she gets ill, she gets better, she then fell in love with another and then she’s pursuing a relationship with this other, it doesn’t home enough to warrant its over two-and-a-half-hour time. It’s a recurring sentiment from me lately about some of these films, but certain ones can maintain suspense or interest or mystery for their whole time slot (The Silence of the Lambs brilliantly maintained the level which they wanted throughout its entire two hour slot), but some films, Out of Africa included, feel like they can easily be cut down in time and worked just as well.

That criticism aside it is still a fine film: the presentation is very nice; the African countryside, the animals, the costumes and attires of all are all very well presented. I’m not going to knock it for its obvious green screen work with their plane ride; instead I’ll praise its use of showing us all around their African location. And there’s some brilliant scenes with the lions who attack them, and they even have their own arc throughout (from a minor attack to a full on onslaught). The film also has a fantastic soundtrack to back its wonderfully open landscapes, and this blends beautifully with the film.

A film to marvel at brilliant acting skills and with a wonderful location, all with the knowledge of it being a true story, but its time length caused certain parts of the film to feel long and unnecessary.


Plot: * *

Acting: * * * *

Writing: * * * *

Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * * ¼


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