Based on the memoir in 1937 of Karen Blixen who uses the pen name Isak Dinesen, this film had 11 Academy Award nominations and won 7 Oscars, none of which went to the outstanding cast.
This was not Meryl Streep’s best effort, although the character she played, Karen Blixen, did not come across as a particularly loveable person. I was highly impressed, however, with Klaus Maria Brandauer, an Austrian actor who played the part of Baron Bror Blixen whose marriage to Karen was one of convenience for both of them. Karen wanted the Baroness title and Bror needed her finances. Klaus impressed me with his poignant portrayal of a man torn between his eventual love for his wife and his need to philander as well as his drive to make a name for himself in his hunting career. He deserved the Oscar nomination for his rendering of the Baron. His role in the movie was the most sympathetic and believable of all.
The story begins in 1913 when Karen arrives in Kenya to marry Baron Bror and to build a coffee plantation, although they were warned that coffee would not grow at the height in Kenya which they had proposed. Filmed on location, the camera shots of the region were extraordinary, which understandably won for the film the Academy Award for Cinematography. Close-ups of wild animals, including lions ready to pounce, added a special sensation to an already breathtaking setting.
Although Karen grew fond of her husband, his need to be away from home left her desolate and vulnerable when she met Denys Finch-Hatton, played somewhat blandly by Robert Redford. Karen soon realized that the Baron had given her syphilis which required her to return to Denmark for treatment which was successful, except that it left her unable to bear children. They eventually divorced amicably which left the door open for Finch-Hatton.
It is interesting that Karen’s memoir reveals her obsessive need of commitment from the men in her life. Clearly Denys Finch-Hatton became the love of her life but she was again burdened by the requirements of his career as a safari tour guide as well as a hunter. Nevertheless, this imposed time alone brought her closer to her native helpers and made her realize that the children could benefit from the establishment of a school on the plantation grounds.
The coffee plantation, in difficult straits from the beginning, comes to a sad end when a fire roars through the property. Never able to persuade Denys to commit to marriage with her, their doomed romance comes to an abrupt end when his plane crashes on a scouting expedition.
Baroness Blixen was forced to return to her home in Denmark in 1931 to take up her writing career once again as Isak Dinesen who has given us so much pleasure from her prose, with special accolades to Out of Africa.
Movie – Out of Africa (1985)