Out of Africa (1985)


A grand love story and an intrepid, independent woman combine to create a great movie. Out of Africa is the 1985 blockbuster film that celebrates the adventurous and sentimental saga of the life of Danish-born, Karen Blixen-Flecke (known by her pen name Isak Dinesen). The film is based on her book of the same name and a splattering of her other personal writings.

Blixen-Flecke’s life is filled with love, loss, triumph, and grief. We watch Blixen-Flecke have it all and then lose it all while trying to keep her wits and integrity about her. It has all of the elements of an absorbing tear-jerking drama. Blixen-Flecke is played by Meryl Streep who gives a powerful portrayal of the forceful, determined and plucky main character. This is a woman who marries an aristocratic Baron for convenience, boldly moves her life to the exotic contentment of Africa, falls in love with a seductive, yet aloof and free-spirited white game hunter and runs an expansive coffee plantation.

Her lover, the dynamic, yet elusive, hunter Denys Finch Hatton, is played by Robert Redford who becomes the all-encompassing amour of Blixen-Flecke, but refuses to be tired down by convention or marriage. Her husband, the Baron, is a philanderer who not only gives his wife heart-break but a very serious case of syphilis. It is the syphilis that prevents Blixen-Fleck from having children, but she redirects her maternal instincts by opening a school for the tribal children and teaches them mathematics and reading. At every turn she tries to make the most of her life, and this resilience of character makes her life story both exciting and admirable.

Another strong woman pops up on the screen in Out of Africa. Beryl Markham, author and adventuress, appears in the movie as Felicity. Markham eventually also becomes the lover of Finch Hatton. It’s rare that not only one, but two, attractive, independent and fearless women are portrayed in a fascinating yet poignant Hollywood feature film. For more on Beryl Markham see The Armchair Adventurer, where we review the biographies, The Lives of Beryl Markham and Straight on Till Morning, the Biography of Beryl Markham.

The film was nominated for a whopping 11 Academy Awards and won 7, including Best Picture. The film is over twenty-five years old and begins in 1913, but it is a timeless cinema classic and an inspiring true story for any adventure woman looking for a tale, of grit, guts and true love.