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Karen (Meryl Streep) is a Danish aristocrat who enters into a marriage of convenience with her lover's brother Baron Bror Blixen (Klaus Maria Brandauer) and moves to the high plains of Kenya, Africa, to begin life on a coffee plantation. When it becomes obvious to Karen that the Baron is more interested in his philandering lifestyle than he is in life on the plantation with her, she looks for gratification in other areas; setting up a school for children of the native population who neighbour her land as well as working on making her farm profitable. Karen's adventurous new home and the enchanting land in which she finds herself soon leads to her becoming attracted to charming hunter Denys Finch-Hatton (Robert Redford) and, when they begin a passionate affair, her true love for this wondrous country is soon realised.

Review by Craig Miller:
Eleven Oscar nominations and seven trophies may seem like high praise indeed for the soppy Out of Africa, a handsome romance/drama/biopic set in Africa in the early 20th century which follows the passionate love affair between a wild-at-heart hunter and a Baroness from Denmark, but it's just the type of film that commands attention - a motion picture that feels grand, the way movies of yester year did. That old school Hollywood feel.

To be honest, it's not a film that resonates with me the way more popular cinema of today does, but it does draw you into an astonishing world of beautiful landscapes, dream-like love and reality-based human drama that is so irrepressible that it's virtually impossible not to become absorbed in this enchanting world.

Based on the real-life works and memoirs of Karen Blixen, who wrote under the name Isak Dinesen, this adaptation by Sydney Pollack is a wonderfully rich film, emotionally and visually, that focuses as much on the intimacies of love as it does on the grandeur of the rugged, untamed African wilderness.

All the performances are excellent; Klaus Maria Brandauer has the difficult task of bringing to life the conflicted and dastardly Baron Bror, succeeding wonderfully, and Meryl Streep and Robert Redford are charming in their perfections, able to beautifully portray two people in love with each other, their ideologies and their adopted country.

Although Streep and Redford deliver fine performances as the two free-spirited lovers, the real star of Out of Africa, without question, is the location and scenery. Cinematographer David Watkin (a deserved Oscar winner if ever there was one, along with John Barry who composed the film's mesmerising original score) captures a world so majestic and so beautiful, that the love story the film is based around looks forced and contrived next to it. Of course it's not, but the stunning locations Pollack uses and Watkins captures so completely makes the picture that you can't imagine it having enjoyed the same success and the praise without it.

For a DVD special edition the lack of standout extras hurts. The 2002 single disc release is virtually identical to this new double disc edition, the big difference surprisingly in the quality of the audio and video rather than in regards to the special features. Many of the images look to have been touched up nicely and, for a film celebrating 20 years, it's a transfer that really has benefited from attention. It's not perfect, but what is! The soundtrack gets an upgrade from Dolby to DTS (a Dolby 5.1 track is still available) and this is really the only reason for the second disc. Good soundtracks take up big space.

Like the 2002 original there's the full-length Sydney Pollack commentary - a very informative, technical track detailing the themes and emotional core of the film and random anecdotes about the shoot, the overall production and the crew - that never really gets out of first gear, and a fifty-minute Song of Africa documentary which looks behind-the-scenes at the film with cast/crew interviews that is interspersed with a biography on author Karen Blixen. Also included are some biographies and production notes, but none of it mentions anything more than passing comment, so that's all it's getting!

At times you can't help but think that DVD does take advantage of us punters - collector's edition, special editions, double disc gold editions etc etc etc - every week a more grander re-packaged offering than the week before. This special edition of Out of Africa may not deserve its special edition title as far as its DVD content is concerned but, as a film, it is certainly one that will truly satisfy collectors.

Published May 5, 2005

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(US, 1985)

CAST: Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Michael Kitchen, Malick Bowens, Joseph Thiaka,

DIRECTOR: Sydney Pollack

SCRIPT: Kurt Luedtke

RUNNING TIME: 154 minutes

PRESENTATION: 1.85:1 widescreen 16:9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with Sydney Pollack, Song of Africa documentary, biographies, production notes, trailer.


DVD RELEASE: April 5, 2005

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