Out of africa poster
Based on a true story.
Directed By
Sydney Pollack
Produced By
Sydney Pollack,
Terence Clegg (co-producer),
Anna Cataldi (associate),
Judith Thurman (associate)
Written By
Isak Dinesen (memoirs)
Judith Thurman
Errol Trzebinski
Kurt Luedtke (screenplay)
Distributed By
English / Swahili
Release Date
Decemer 18, 1985 (USA)
February 21, 1986 (Denmark)
March 4, 1986 (UK)
150 min
PG (USA / UK / Singapore)
U (France)
TE (Chile)
M (Australia)
K-12 (Finland)
$31 million
$87.1 million (USA)

Out of Africa is a 1985 drama/romance film based loosely on the autobiographical book of the same name by Isak Dinesen published in 1937, as well as Dinesen's Shadows on the Grass and other sources. The movie received 28 film awards, including seven Academy Awards (Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction, Sound) and three Golden Globes (Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Original Score).

The film was adapted by Kurt Luedtke and directed by Sydney Pollack. It starred Meryl Streep, Robert Redford (as Denys), Klaus Maria Brandauer (as Baron Blixen), Michael Kitchen (as Berkeley Cole), Malick Bowens (as Farah), Stephen Kinyanjui (as Chief), Michael Gough (Delamere), Suzanna Hamilton (as Felicity who is based on famous aviatrix Beryl Markham), and supermodel Iman (in a cameo role as Mariammo).


Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

The film opens in Denmark as a dying Karen Blixen (Streep) remembers the years she spent in Africa between 1914] and 1931. Looming large in her memory is the figure of Denys Finch Hatton (Redford), a local large game hunter she met when she arrived in Africa to start what she thought would be a dairy farm together with her husband, Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke (Brandauer).

Things turn out differently for her than anticipated, as the blue-blooded but poor Baron has used her money to purchase a coffee plantation instead of a dairy farm. He also shows little inclination to put any work into it, preferring to hunt game instead. While from the beginning their marriage is depicted as mostly symbiotic in the movie (her family has money, while the Baron has a title), Karen does eventually develop feelings for him and is distressed when she learns of his affairs.

To make matters worse, she contracts syphilis from her philandering husband, which at the time was a very dangerous condition, necessitating her return to Denmark for a possible cure.

After she has recovered and returned to Africa, a relationship between her and Finch Hatton begins to develop. However, after many unsuccessful attempts at turning their affair into a lasting relationship and possibly marriage, she must realize that Finch Hatton is as impossible to own or tame as the African wildlife itself. His eventual death in a plane crash is foreshadowed in the movie by the tale of Maasai people who would perish in captivity.

As coffee prices have dropped dramatically after the First World War, Karen is forced to give up the plantation and return to Denmark where she becomes an author, writing about her experiences in Africa.

The movie tells this story as a series of six loosely coupled episodes from her life, intercut with her narration. The final narration is from her book, Out of Africa, while the others have been written for the film in imitation of her very lyrical writing style.

Spoilers end here.


The movie tells the story as a series of six loosely coupled episodes from Karen's life, intercut with her narration. The final narration, about Denys's grave, is from her book Out of Africa, while the others have been written for the film in imitation of her very lyrical writing style. The pace of the movie is often slow, reflecting the book, "Natives dislike speed, as we dislike noise..." [Out of Africa, p. 252].

Out of Africa was filmed using descendants of several Kikuyu named in the book, near the actual Ngong Hills outside Nairobi, but not there inside Karen's (second) 3-bedroom house "Mbagathi" (now the museum). The shooting took place in her first house Mbogani, just close to the museum, a dairy today.

The production emphasizes a wide range of personal relationships, and a range of sophistication, among both the Europeans and the native peoples. The native dialog ranges from simple ideas ("this water lives at Mombasa") to quips ("British know how to read and what good has it done them"), to religious revelations ("God is great, Sabu; He plays with us"). Similarly, the European customs range from the sexism that prohibited women in clubs, to gestures with hats, to the sophisticated dialog: "we're a pair, you and I" or "at least we would have been somewhere" and also "when the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers." More than just spoken words, the expressions on faces, the body language, the sound effects, and the flow of the plot reveal the immense range of sophistication.

Book vs. filmEdit

The narrative and the flow of the movie differs significantly from the book.

The book describes events during 1914–1931 concerning European settlers and the native people in the bush country of Kenya (British East Africa), from seaside Mombasa to Nairobi, from Mount Kenya to Kilimanjaro, as told from the lyrical, poetic viewpoint of Danish Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke. The book was continually in print during the 20th Century, reprinted by many publishers.


The music for Out of Africa, including Mozart and African traditional songs, also has many 2nd-generation compositions by John Barry, based on his older music "temp-tracked" in film-editing by director Sydney Pollack, from previous Barry films, such as Born Free (1966), Robin and Marian (1976), and The Last Valley (1970–71) which inspired the music Flying over Africa, over Lake Nakuru's flamingos.

External linksEdit

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