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For, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021


EDITOR’S NOTE: From 1966 to 1990, Robert Redford and the late Sydney Pollack made seven movies together and 'Out of Africa' was, arguably, their best collaboration. No small feat when the others include 'Jeremiah Johnson,' 'The Way We Were' and 'Three Days of the Condor.' But in my book 'Out of Africa' has a grandeur and sweep that ranks up there with David Lean ('Lawrence of Arabia,' 'Doctor Zhivago'), as you will ascertain from my admittedly gushing review, published in the Deseret News on Dec. 20, 1985. ‘Out of Africa’ is part of a new eight-movie DVD set of Meryl Streep pictures just released by Universal Home Entertainment.


Sydney Pollack, as if you didn’t already know it, is one of our most talented directors. There doesn’t seem to be a subject he can’t tackle and turn it into a wonderful movie, from comedy (“Tootsie”) to thriller (“Three Days of the Condor”) to romance (“The Way We Were”).


So his name on “Out of Africa” is enough to get the juices going in anticipation that this is going to be something special. Add to that a cast headed by Robert Redford and Meryl Streep and it’s impossible even for a jaded film critic not to expect to be entertained.


The ultimate discovery that “Out of Africa” is not just a good movie but a great one is less a surprise than a delightful fulfillment of expectations. This is filmmaking at its finest — from the gorgeous photography, the lovely music, and the flawless set design to the sharp, witty script and the fine-tuned performances all around.


The story is basically true, about a Danish woman in 1914, Karen Dinesen Blixen (Meryl Streep), who would later write about her life under the name Isak Dinesen. The film is based on her book, “Out of Africa,” as well as with several other works, including biographies.




Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in an iconic moment from 'Out of Africa' (1985).


In the film, Dinesen essentially buys her way into a marriage for the purpose of gaining a title. Her husband is Baron Bror Blixen (Klaus Maria Brandauer), who has gone ahead to Kenya where he was to have begun a dairy farm. But when she arrives, Dinesen discovers he instead has put her money into coffee beans, a risky farm project at that altitude.


The result is the first of several unhappy encounters that lead to their permanent separation, as he goes off on safari and has affairs with native women, and she tries to make their farm thrive.


Blixen eventually falls in love with a free-spirited adventurer named Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford), only to find that he is too free-spirited even for her. Yet their on-and-off life together is a fascinating one, and they help each other grow.


But perhaps even more than being about Dinesen’s love affair with Finch Hatton, “Out of Africa” is about Dinesen’s love affair with the country and its people. We see her go from naïve tolerance to genuine love for Africa, a land that is succumbing to the ever-increasing demands of civilization, and the people whose traditions and lifestyles are permanently and unhappily altered.


The environmental statement is actually quite subtle here for the most part with the emphasis on the characters, and Streep is once again simply astonishing as she gets into the skin of this woman. Every step she takes is so right that we feel we are growing with her.




Redford gets the lion’s share (pardon the phrase) of the great dialogue here, providing … of all things … comic relief. He delivers his lines in a deadpan manner, and though he is essentially a dramatic character his witty and insightful observations are often quite funny.


Brandauer is wonderful as the slimy husband, yet he’s not a blackguard; he manages to gain some sympathy through the shading of his character.


Screenwriter Kurt Luedtke did a good job with his first screenplay “Absence of Malice” but who would have dreamed he had this kind of sensitivity? His script for “Out of Africa” is first-rate — sharp, intelligent funny, bright and never sinks into sloppy sentiment.


Similar kudos are also deserved for every technical aspect of the film, from set design to costumes to cinematography to the score (one of John Barry’s best). …


And director Pollack knows just how to use all this material to proper advantage, making the film a wonderful throwback to the best romantic adventures.


This is by far one of the year’s best films and a sure bet as a major Oscar contender.


“Out of Africa” is rated PG for some violence and profanity, with some discreet sex and partial nudity.