Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 1985. Mirage Enterprises, Universal Pictures. Screenplay by Kurt Luedtke, based on the books Out Of Africa and Shadows on The Grass by Karen Blixen, Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Story Teller by Judith Thurman, and Silence Will Speak by Errol Trzebinski. Cinematography by David Watkin. Produced by Sydney Pollack. Music by John Barry. Production Design by Stephen B. Grimes. Costume Design by Milena Canonero. Film Editing by Pembroke J. Herring, Sheldon Kahn, Fredric Steinkamp, William Steinkamp. Academy Awards 1985. Golden Globe Awards 1985. National Board of Review Awards 1987. New York Film Critics Awards 1985.
Before she became a famous author under the nom de plume Isak Dinesen, Karen Blixen (nee Dinesen) lived for many years in Kenya and tended to the coffee farm she and her Baron husband purchased there. Baroness Blixen (Meryl Streep) finds herself acclimating to culture shock and learning to run the farm with confidence and natural command, a task she is forced into thanks to her husband (Klaus Maria Brandauer) going on constant safari trips and eventually enlisting in the army during the first World War. In her solitude, Blixen befriends Denys Finch-Hatton (Robert Redford), a British game hunter who ended up becoming the greatest love of her life. This film, which is quite definitely my personal favourite movie of all time, has everything you could ask for in a motion picture experience: romance, adventure, exotic locations, intelligent conversation and plush period detail. Streep adds another winning, indomitable performance to her resume, and Redford, while not in any way British (or bald as Finch-Hatton was, for that matter), is the perfect portrait of emotional unavailability that made the man the source of Blixen’s simultaneous frustration and passion. If for nothing else, enjoy how beautiful it is to look at thanks to David Watkins’s breathtaking cinematography. The screenplay was skillfully adapted by Kurt Luedtke from five source materials, two biographies of Blixen and three of her own writings, all of it held together with effortless clarity by director Sydney Pollack, here making his very best film.