Out of Africa (1985) – Sydney Pollack

 

Meryl Streep and Robert Redford headline this romantic drama  that is based on a true story, and is a recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book for my screening of Gone With the Wind. Claiming a number of Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Score (by John Barry), Screenplay, and obviously, Cinematography, the film is gorgeous.

Set in 1913, colonial Kenya, Streep is Karen a plantation owner, and Baroness married to Bror (Kalus Maria Brandeur), who begins a love affair with big-game hunter Denys (Redford).

With a marriage of convenience, Karen joins Bror in Africa to run a coffee plantation, where the colonialism of the British Empire is painted against the beauty of the continent. The structure and formality of the class rankings stands in stark contrast to the free-spirited Denys, who draws Karen’s attention.

Bror vanishes on a regular basis, leaving Karen to run the plantation, and struggle to learn and adapt to the wonders and beauties of Africa, dealing with the tribes, the animals, and the running of affairs on her own.

Taking its time in its telling, the film revels in its landscapes, both physical and emotional, and with Barry’s soaring score, the viewer is swept along in the events and the characters, as Karen becomes an even stronger woman, even as war begins to ravage the world, with Denys popping up into her life on occasion.

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With personal pains and revelations, the two are inexorably drawn to one another in this passionate love story, with one of the most gorgeous backdrops in the world.

Streep is amazing here, imbuing Karen with a reality that makes you revel in her triumphs, and ache with the pains she’s dealt, but through it all, she becomes stronger, more independent, and all the more appealing not only to Denys, but the audience as well.

The experiences Karen goes through are joyous, painful, and real, and watching Streep and Redofrd bring these characters to life are a real joy. There is a restrained passion through all of the film, as the two fall in love, and though their lives are different, they struggle to connect and hold onto something that they feel is real, though both seem to see it in different ways.

From highs to heartbreaking lows, the film captivates and stuns.

This was one of the films suggested to be viewed if I watched Gone With the Wind, and once again, I prefer this film to that, because of the performances, the look, and the true epic nature of the views we are given, of the land and of the heart.

Streep is amazing in this film, and the performance is among her best, the final moments of the film, she is so restrained and bristling with passion at the same time. It’s beautiful to behold.

But then again, maybe I’m just a romantic at heart.

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