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Film / Out of Africa

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"Last night I dreamed of Africa..."

Based on the eponymous novel by Isak Dinesen, the pen name of Danish writer Karen Blixen, Out of Africa (1985) tells of Blixen's time in the Kenyan highlands in the years before, during, and after World War I. It includes her unhappy marriage, her attempts at a failed coffee farm, and her romance with big game hunter Denys Finch-Hatton.

Meryl Streep stars opposite Robert Redford as Denys Finch-Hatton and Klaus Maria Brandauer as Bror Blixen. It's directed by Sydney Pollack, scored by John Barry, and absolutely full of Scenery Porn.

Provides examples of:

  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Before leaving Africa, Karen shames the colonial governor into letting the Kikuyu community on her property keep their homes by pleading on her knees in public.
    Karen: You mustn't be embarrassed. I've lost everything. It costs me very little to beg you.
  • Amicable Exes: Bror and Karen remain fairly civil and friendly even after he gives her syphilis, and she kicks him out of the house and takes up with Denys. Karen lampshades this in a bemused fashion.
    Karen: How do you manage it? To keep us friends?
  • Character Development: Karen begins by marrying Bror so that she can be a baroness and very much attached to fine things. Near the end she admits to Denys that she was beginning to like living without them. Denys had previously admitted that Karen had ruined being alone for him.
  • Commitment Issues: Seems to be Denys' problem, as he continually resists any attempts by Karen to get him to marry her or enter into a serious relationship.
    Denys: I don't want to live someone else's idea of how to live. Don't ask me to do that. I don't want to find out one day that I'm at the end of someone else's life.
  • Double Standard: Subverted: Karen can, eventually, hunt and farm with the best of them, and is even invited into the to-this-day men-only bar at the Muthaiga Club. She remains the only woman ever to drink there.
  • Finding a Bra in Your Car: Karen took Bror back after he gave her syphilis, but after she finds someone else's underwear in her car (not shown in the movie), she kicks him out for good.
  • Framing Device: Old Karen remembering her African histories.
  • Geeky Turn-On: One of the reasons Denys falls for Karen is her ability to tell stories.
  • Gold Digger: At Karen's suggestion, Bror marries her for her money.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Fashion of the 1910s was pretty stunning, even for hunting outfits.
  • Great White Hunter: Denys Finch-Hatton, although he's not brutal about it, declining to shoot a lioness that is menacing Karen. Bror quickly tires of farming and says he will become this.
  • Hope Spot: Denys finally seems interested in a serious relationship with Karen, saying she's "ruined being alone" for him. And then he's killed in a plane crash.
  • Instant Expert: Denys and flying. Averted when he dies crashing his plane.
  • Lady of Adventure: Karen goes to Africa specifically to be this. By the time she leads a caravan of cattle across the desert to an Allied army, she's definitely succeeded.
  • Lohengrin and Mendelssohn: "Here Comes the Bride" played on bagpipes at Karen and Bror's wedding.
  • Marriage of Convenience: Bror is a baron who doesn't have any money, and Karen is an heiress who wants to get out from under the thumb of her family. It seems like a good deal, although Karen probably changed her mind right around the time Bror gave her syphilis.
  • Mighty Whitey: Alluded to in a scene where Denys is skeptical of Karen's plan to start a school for the local children. She is indignant, but he says he doesn't think the children of the tribes should be turned into "little Englishmen".
  • National Geographic Nudity: From some of the locals as Karen's train reaches the station.
  • New Year Has Come: Karen and Denys share a dance at New Year's 1919.
  • Nobility Marries Money: Bror the broke baron marries wealthy Karen.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Robert Redford actually wanted to try for an English accent but eventually it was decided that he wasn't very good at it. Some of his lines were looped in accent-free in post-production. There's still a trace of an English accent in some of his lines in his first scene.
  • Record Needle Scratch: In-universe. This is something you should expect when you play Mozart to monkeys.
  • Scenery Porn: The African savanna is shot to look beautiful in so many scenes, especially with Denys flying his plane around the landscape.
  • The Storyteller: Karen is very good at stories. Various characters play a game of sorts with her, giving her random prompts and she spins elaborate, epic stories out of those.