Out of Africa (film): Wikis


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Out of Africa

theatrical poster
Directed by Sydney Pollack
Produced by Sydney Pollack
Written by Source books:
Judith Thurman
Errol Trzebinski
Karen Blixen
Kurt Luedtke
Starring Robert Redford
Meryl Streep
Klaus Maria Brandauer
Music by John Barry
Cinematography David Watkin
Editing by Fredric Steinkamp
William Steinkamp
Pembroke Herring
Sheldon Kahn
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) 18 December 1985 (US)
Running time 160 mins.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $31,000,000 (est.)
Gross revenue $87,071,205[1]

Out of Africa is a film published in theaters in 1985.[1] 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.


The book and the film

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 film was adapted into a screenplay by the writer Kurt Luedtke, and it was directed by the American director Sydney Pollack. Its stars were Meryl Streep as the Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke; Robert Redford as Denys Finch Hatton; and Klaus Maria Brandauer (as Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke). Other actors and actresses in this 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 (Streep) briefly remembers hunting in Denmark, then the years she spent mostly residing in Africa (1914 through 1931, 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 (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 (Brandauer).

Things turn out differently for her than anticipated, since the blue-blooded but poor financially 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, and she is distressed when she learns of his extramarital affairs.

To make matters worse, Karen contracts syphilis from her philandering husband, which at the time was a very dangerous disease. This became the necessity 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.

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.

Karen lives in a 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. 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 funeral in the Ngong Hills, as Karen prepares to toss a handful of soil into the grave in a European ceremony, she hesitates, and then she turns away from the other Europeans, and she brushes her hand through her hair instead, as is the African custom.

In this film, Karen finds it necessary to return to Denmark permanently, following a catastrophic fire that destroys her entire farm of coffee plants. 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.



This film tells the story as a series of six loosely coupled episodes from Karen's life, intercut with her narration. The final narration, about Denys's grave, is from her book Out of Africa, while the others have been written for the film in imitation of her very lyrical writing style. The pace of this film is often rather slow, reflecting Blixen's book, "Natives dislike speed, as we dislike noise..."[2]

Out of Africa was filmed using descendants of several people of the Kikuyu tribe who are named in the book, near the actual Ngong Hills outside Nairobi, but not inside of Karen's (second) three-bedroom house "Mbagathi" (now the Karen Blixen Museum). The filming took place in her first house "Mbogani", close to the museum, which is a dairy today. The scenes set in Denmark were actually filmed in Surrey, England.

Differences between the film and real life events

This film quotes the start of the book, "I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills" [p. 3], and Denys recites, "He prayeth well that loveth well both man and bird and beast" from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which becomes the epitaph inscribed on Finch-Hatton's grave marker [p. 370].

This film differs significantly from the book, leaving out the devastating locust swarm, some local shootings, Karen's writings with the German army, and the down-scaling the size of her 4,000 acre (16 km²) farm, with 800 Kikuyu workers and 18-oxen wagon.

The film also takes liberties with Karen's and Denys's romance. They met at a hunting club, not in the plains. Denys was away from Kenya for two years on military assignment in Egypt, which is not mentioned. Denys took up flying and began to lead safaris after he moved in with Karen. The film also ignores the fact that Karen was pregnant at least once with Denys's child, but she suffered from miscarriages. Furthermore, Denys was decidedly English, but this fact was down-played by the hiring of the actor Robert Redford, an inarguably All-American actor who had previously worked with Pollack. When Redford accepted the contract to play Finch Hatton, he did so fully intending to play him as an Englishman. This conception was later nixed by the director Sydney Pollack. Pollack thought that this would become too distracting for the audiences, with hearing Redford speak in an English accent. In fact, Redford reportedly had to re-record some of his lines from early takes in the filming, in which he still spoke with a trace of English accent.


The music for Out of Africa, including Mozart's Clarinet Concerto and African traditional songs, also has many second-generation compositions by the Englishman John Barry, based on his earlier movie music, "temp-tracked" in the editing of the film by the director Sydney Pollack, such as Born Free (1966), Robin and Marian (1976), and The Last Valley (1970 - 71), which inspired the music Flying over Africa, over Lake Nakuru's flamingos. Barry's score for Out of Africa was listed in fifteenth place in the American Film Institute's list of 100 Years of Film Scores.

Technical notes on the film

In the Director's Notes on the DVD[3] for The Interpreter, Sydney Pollack stated that he filmed Out of Africa and his later films of that decade in "4 to 3"; and that it "...probably was one I should have had in widescreen". The aspect ratio of 4:3 conflicts with that reported in www.ImdB.com, which states that the film's aspect ratio is 1.85:1, the decimal equivalent of 16:9.[4] In his director's notes, Pollack stated that prior to the filming of Out of Africa, he made motion pictures exclusively in the widescreen format and style, and that he did not resume the widescreen format until his movie, The Interpreter, in 2005.

In 1985, there were no steam locomotives still operational in Kenya. Therefore, the producers and their advisors decided to assemble a simulated steam train that was instead pushed from the rear by an available diesel locomotive. The simulated steam locomotive burned rubber tires in its simulated boiler, and liquid oxygen was used as an oxidizer to give the appearance of a coal-fired boiler. This replica of a steam locomotive - and also the passengers cars used during the filming - have been put on display in the Nairobi Railway Museum.

Awards and honors


Academy Awards

The film won seven Academy Awards and was nominated in a further four categories.[5]


Golden Globes

The film won three Golden Globes (Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Original Score).


American Film Institute recognition


  1. ^ a b "Out of Africa - Overview" (cast/gross/plot), allmovie, 2007, webpage: amovie36787.
  2. ^ Out of Africa, p. 252
  3. ^ The Interpreter, DVD#25835, Universal Studios
  4. ^ IMDB: Technical specifications for Out of Africa (1985)
  5. ^ "NY Times: Out of Africa". NY Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/36787/Out-of-Africa/awards. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Academy Award for Best Picture
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Golden Globe for Best Picture - Drama
Succeeded by


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