Out of Africa (1985)

PG | 155 or 161-62 mins | Biography, Drama, Romance | 18 December 1985

Full page view
HISTORY

The film begins with the following title card: “Kenya, East Africa, 1913,” and concludes with the epilogue: “Karen Blixen published her first stories in 1934 under the name Isak Dinesen. She never returned to Africa.”
       Danish author Karen Blixen refused option her work during her lifetime, despite requests from Swedish actress-director Mai Zetterling and American actor Tyrone Power, who travelled to Blixen’s home in Rungstedlund, Denmark, to personally appeal for film rights to Out of Africa. After Blixen’s death in 1962, the executor of her estate, the Rungstedlund Foundation, maintained strict adherence to her wishes that any motion picture adaptation follow her text verbatim, as noted in a 31 Jul 1974 Var article. On 14 Oct 1964, Var announced that the institution had finally sold Out of Africa to Danish director Johan Jacobsen and his wife, filmmaker Annelise Hovmand. As part of the deal, Blixen’s brother, Thomas Dinesen, was named an associate of the production to protect the author’s interests, and British Lion Films was listed as a potential backer. Orson Welles and David Lean had also made separate, unsuccessful attempts to option the book in the 1960s, and actress Greta Garbo was considered for the starring role, according to a 25 Dec 1985 Long Beach Press-Telegram article. Welles eventually directed two other Blixen adaptations, The Immortal Story (1969, see entry) and The Dreamers, which was not completed before his death in 1985.
       Four years after the Jacobsen-Hovmand acquisition, a 4 Feb 1969 DV brief reported that the property had switched ownership, ... More Less

The film begins with the following title card: “Kenya, East Africa, 1913,” and concludes with the epilogue: “Karen Blixen published her first stories in 1934 under the name Isak Dinesen. She never returned to Africa.”
       Danish author Karen Blixen refused option her work during her lifetime, despite requests from Swedish actress-director Mai Zetterling and American actor Tyrone Power, who travelled to Blixen’s home in Rungstedlund, Denmark, to personally appeal for film rights to Out of Africa. After Blixen’s death in 1962, the executor of her estate, the Rungstedlund Foundation, maintained strict adherence to her wishes that any motion picture adaptation follow her text verbatim, as noted in a 31 Jul 1974 Var article. On 14 Oct 1964, Var announced that the institution had finally sold Out of Africa to Danish director Johan Jacobsen and his wife, filmmaker Annelise Hovmand. As part of the deal, Blixen’s brother, Thomas Dinesen, was named an associate of the production to protect the author’s interests, and British Lion Films was listed as a potential backer. Orson Welles and David Lean had also made separate, unsuccessful attempts to option the book in the 1960s, and actress Greta Garbo was considered for the starring role, according to a 25 Dec 1985 Long Beach Press-Telegram article. Welles eventually directed two other Blixen adaptations, The Immortal Story (1969, see entry) and The Dreamers, which was not completed before his death in 1985.
       Four years after the Jacobsen-Hovmand acquisition, a 4 Feb 1969 DV brief reported that the property had switched ownership, as American producer Julian Blaustein had purchased Out of Africa for Universal Pictures. On 16 Apr 1969, Var stated that screenwriter Robert Ardrey began a script one week earlier. Ardrey, who authored the bestseller African Genesis: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man (1961) and wrote the script for Blaustein’s 1966 release, Khartoum (see entry), reportedly brought Out of Africa to Blaustein’s attention.
       Although a 13 Aug 1969 Var item announced that filming on the Blaustein production was set to begin, the project remained in limbo over the next eight months. A 22 Apr 1970 Var article explained that the property had changed hands yet again, from Universal to Warner Bros., but it failed to gain momentum, and Warner Bros. was expected to put the book back on the market. At that time, producer Martin Ransohoff at Filmways, Inc., hoped to acquire Out of Africa from Warner Bros. and finance the picture as a Danish co-production, with filmmaker Henning Karmark and Nordisk Film supplying half of the budget. Actresses Maggie Smith and Vanessa Redgrave were top considerations for the leading role. By 6 May 1970, Ardrey’s script was completed and financing negotiations were still underway, according to a Var brief published that day, and one year later, the 17 Jul 1971 Var reported that General Electric’s subsidiary, Tomorrow Entertainment, was negotiating a deal with Blaustein. However, financing never materialized, and Blaustein was ultimately unable to put the film into production.
       Seven months passed before a 1 Feb 1972 DV news item announced that producer Si Litvinoff had optioned the property, and filming was scheduled to begin that summer. It took another year and a half for Litvinoff to confirm his acquisition of Out of Africa for Columbia Pictures, after “protracted negotiations” with the Rungstedlund Foundation, as reported in the 31 Jul 1974 Var. Noting that past ventures failed because filmmakers were unable to adhere to the institution’s strict demands, and financial constraints, Var stated that Nicholas Roeg had been hired to write and direct the picture, as he remained open to the foundation’s script changes. On 9 Oct 1975, DV reported that filming on the $5 million production was set to take place some time in 1976, with a script by Julie Rosco.
       Meanwhile, journalist Kurt Luedtke had developed a lifelong obsession with British East Africa, and longed to solve the puzzle of adapting Out of Africa into a feature film. As noted in an 8 Dec 1985 LAT article, Karen Blixen’s fictionalized memoir was particularly difficult to condense into a motion picture because its narrative was non-linear and ephemeral, recounting the author’s Kenyan coffee plantation, her marriage to her second cousin, Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke, and the individuals she encountered in Africa, including Kikuyu tribespeople and European colonialists. Among them was Denys George Finch Hatton, a British aristocrat whom she described with adoration, but refrained from identifying as her lover. Luedtke, who left his executive editor post at the Detroit Free Press to pursue creative writing in Hollywood, received an Academy Award nomination for his first produced screenplay, Absence of Malice (1981, see entry), and was eager to start a new project. That year, he came across a 1977 biography of Finch Hatton called Silence Will Speak, and gained insight into Hatton’s previously undisclosed, intimate relationship with Blixen. As noted in the 25 Dec 1985 Long Beach Press-Telegram, biographer Errol Trzebinski stumbled upon the mysterious romance at a rummage sale in Mombasa, Kenya. An antique cup, inscribed “K. B. from D. F. H.,” prompted three years of research that uncovered the couple’s elusory love affair. Reading Silence Will Speak, Luedtke believed he had finally “found the key” to the Out of Africa puzzle that had stumped past filmmakers, and decided to adapt the book as a romantic “story of a woman who wanted more than she could have, and, as a result, lost everything.” As stated in production notes from AMPAS library files, he “immediately” traveled to Venice, Italy, to acquire screen rights to Hatton’s biography, and coincidentally crossed paths with author Judith Thurman, who had recently completed a first draft of Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller (1982).
       At that time, Columbia retained screen rights to Out of Africa with executive producer Kim Jorgensen, and Luedtke had a connection to the studio because it had distributed Absence of Malice. He approached the film’s director-producer, Sydney Pollack, with his plan for Out of Africa, but Pollack was skeptical, having attempted an adaptation of his own years earlier, according to the 8 Dec 1985 LAT. After reading the first draft of Luedtke’s script in 1982, Pollack was convinced the story was a success, but he worked with Luedtke for another year before presenting it to Columbia chairman Frank Price. On 23 Dec 1983, LAT announced that development had begun at Columbia, but Pollack noted that the deal was not finalized, since he was engaged as a “creative consultant” at the newly established Tri-Star Pictures. The studio had a complicated relationship with Columbia, as both were accountable to the same parent company, Coca-Cola, but did not share projects. A Dec 1983 Ampersand item added that actress Jessica Lange had acquired screen rights for Pollack to direct at that time, but she did not retain the property.
       Nearly two months later, a 17 Feb 1984 NYT column reported that Out of Africa would be a Columbia-Tri-Star co-production. Pollack was pursuing his longtime collaborator, Robert Redford, for the starring role of “Denys,” and British actress Jane Seymour was the top choice for “Karen,” as stated in a 21 Mar 1984 HR news item. According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Pollack was initially disinterested in casting an American actress, fearing her Danish accent would sound forced. However, Luedtke reportedly wrote the part for Meryl Streep, and the actress actively campaigned for the role. She learned to replicate Blixen’s voice from audio tape recordings, but Pollack ultimately asked her to tone down the author’s aristocratic speech pattern, fearing it would alienate the audience.
       On 2 May 1984, LAT reported “rumors” that Redford and Streep had been cast. However, Columbia had put the property into turnaround the previous week, and Pollack was in negotiations with Universal, where Frank Price had taken over as chairman after leaving Columbia in the wake of Coca-Cola’s takeover. The 8 Dec 1985 LAT explained that Columbia was wary of financing another big-budget African production after losing more than $26 million on Sheena (1984, see entry), but Price did not balk at Out of Africa’s proposed $20-million budget.
       By 5 Oct 1984, Out of Africa was ready for production, as announced in a NYT column published that day. Principal photography began on 14 Jan 1985 in a town near Nairobi, Kenya, called “Karen” after the famous author who once lived there. Karen Blixen’s home was recreated from an existing farmhouse at the Ngong Dairy, since her real home had been converted into a government facility, as stated in production notes. (The house was later transformed into a national museum due to the success of the film Out of Africa, according to a 25 Mar 1986 HR announcement. The landmark was protested by some Kenyans, who did not wish to glorify the country’s colonialist heritage.) On set, the Blixen home interiors included actual furnishings that belonged to the author, including a bedstead, dressing table, and wardrobe that were uncovered in the town of Naivasha, Kenya. Blixen had sold most of her belongings before leaving Africa, and set decorator Josie MacAvin scoured the area to trace their whereabouts. The McMillan Memorial Library in Nairobi lent a chair and inlaid trunk that belonged to Blixen, as well as an ornate desk that was believed to be owned by the real Lord Delamere, Hugh Cholmondeley. The Ngong Dairy also provided the location of the Kikuyu village and the Muthaiga Club.
       The set for Blixen’s coffee factory was constructed on the Ololua Ridge, just miles from its original location. Approximately 750 bushes were transplanted from an estate that was once owned by Gustav Mohr, who planted the crops sixty years earlier while he and Blixen were close friends.
       The film’s second main location was situated in Langata, a suburb of Nairobi, where the city was re-created as it appeared in 1914. Blixen spent nearly nineteen years in Nairobi, although the time span was shortened to a decade for the picture, and the set was modified throughout production to depict the passage of time. Nairobi sites also included the Rift Valley, where scenes were shot at the Masai Mara National Reserve. In Tanzania, filming took place at the Ngorongoro Crater near Arusha, and in the Manyara Region’s Lake Manyara.
       Two months into production, a 20 Feb 1985 Var column reported that controversy arose on set when Kenyan background actors objected to being depicted bare-chested. The men believed that wearing only shorts was “indecent” and undignified, and demanded to be attired in “suits or similar modern attire.” An editorial by the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) party in the Kenya Times complained: “To require independent Kenyans to now play inferior to a white ‘memsahib’ in a movie, just because Karen Blixen in her book saw Kenyans as inferior, is taking it too far… the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting should not allow foreign films to come here and insult us on our own soil just because some racist author wrote a racist book ages ago.” Kenyan actors also called for an increase in their daily wage of $3.70. Articles in the 16 May 1985 Gallup Independent and the Jan 1986 edition of Playgirl, which listed African wages between $9 and $15 per day, reported that white extras earned approximately $25 for the same amount of hours. However, the production defended the discrepancy, claiming that the increased rate reflected “supply and demand.” Since far fewer white actors were available, the filmmakers were obliged to incentivize recruitment with higher wages. In addition, producer Terrence Clegg reported his concern that offering a daily rate of $25 to members of an African populace that largely earned less than $3 a day might “cause a riot.” Clegg stated that government officials warned him not to compensate actors above the local pay scale, because Kenyans might “abandon their regular jobs for a few weeks’ work” and disrupt business. Production notes stated that film hired a total of “2,100 Europeans and 7,250 African” extras.
       Due to strict laws protecting indigenous wildlife, five lions were imported from an animal actors’ preserve in CA, according to the Gallup Independent and the 8 Dec 1985 LAT. Three of the lions had already travelled to Africa for other films, including “Asali,” who had made the trip five times.
       Complications with unpredictable weather patterns, as well as delays attributed to the controversy surrounding actors’ wages, caused the production to exceed its anticipated schedule, and the budget increased from $20 million to $30 million. Pollack told the LAT that filming concluded after 101 days, of which Meryl Streep worked ninety-nine. Referring to Out of Africa as the most challenging picture of his career, Pollack reported that he was greatly concerned about its commercial success. The first cut was 220 minutes long, and Pollack believed its slow pace, “lack of narrative drive,” and contrived foreign accents would be unacceptable to audiences. After Pollack edited the film to approximately 155 minutes, Universal insisted on a press screening in Nov 1985, and it was critically acclaimed. On 12 Nov 1985, DV announced that a world premiere was set for 10 Dec 1985 at the Plitt Century Plaza Theatres. The screening grossed $500,000 for a new ambulatory center and cancer institute at Saint John’s Hospital, as reported in a 23 Apr 1986 DV news item.
       Out of Africa was released on 18 Dec 1985 to mixed reviews, with many critics taking issue with the film’s length and slow pace. Although the 9 Dec 1985 HR praised the picture for its “masterful” movement through “carefully modulated visual rhythms,” the 18 Dec 1985 LAT complained that the sophisticated aesthetics did not generate “enough electricity” to charge the drawn-out narrative, and the 18 Dec 1985 NYT contended that “with the exception of Miss Streep’s performance, the pleasures of ‘Out of Africa’ are all peripheral.” Still, the film fared well at the box-office, earning $31,404 in its opening day at four theaters in New York City and two in Los Angeles, CA, according to a 20 Dec 1985 HR article.
       While the picture continued to generate interest in the U.S., particularly after it was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, it was not well-received in Kenya, where it opened on 31 Jan 1986. As noted in a 21 Feb 1986 LAHExam article, the Kenya Times repeated accusations of wage discrimination, and criticized the film for failing to depict Kenyans in “strong” roles, stating that Africans were portrayed as “romanticized ‘houseboys,’ servants whose existence seems to be owed to the presence of the ‘memsahib’ and their various masters.” Although many Kenyans refused to see the picture “for political reasons,” LAHExam noted that Karen Blixen was perceived as “pro-native” by other colonialists in her time, since she fought against “forced labor” and advocated for education.
       Out of Africa generated an upsurge in Kenya’s tourism, with reports of over 5,000 Americans alone visiting the country after the film’s release. The East African Breweries Ltd. hoped to capitalize on the newfound interest in Kenya, signing a contract with the Creative Import Marketing Co. in Milwaukee, WI, to import “Tusker Malt Lager.”
       Despite box-office setbacks in Kenya, Out of Africa performed well in foreign markets, grossing over $34 million as of 9 Apr 1986, as reported in a Var column published that day. Universal stated that the picture was breaking records abroad, with Japanese revenues of more than $2 million in the first twenty-four days of opening.
       The film won seven Academy Awards for Art Direction, Cinematography, Directing, Music (Original Score), Sound, Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium), and Best Picture; and was nominated in four additional categories: Actor in a Supporting Role (Klaus Maria Brandauer), Actress in a Leading Role (Meryl Streep), Costume Design, and Film Editing. Out of Africa ranked #13 on AFI’s 2002 100 Years… 100 Passions, and #15 on AFI’s 2005 100 Years of Film Scores.
       End credits include: “Special thanks to: Syd Dutton and Bill Taylor of Illusion Arts, Inc., and the Rungstedlund Foundation.” End credits state: “The majority of this motion picture was photographed on Agfa XT color negative.” More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Ampersand
Dec 1983.
---
Daily Variety
4 Feb 1969.
---
Daily Variety
1 Feb 1972
p. 9.
Daily Variety
9 Oct 1975.
---
Daily Variety
12 Nov 1985.
---
Daily Variety
23 Apr 1986.
---
Gallup Independent
16 May 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Mar 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Dec 1985
p. 3, 18.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 1985
p. 26.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Mar 1986.
---
LAHExam
21 Feb 1986
p. 2.
Long Beach Press-Telegram
25 Dec 1985.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Dec 1983.
---
Los Angeles Times
2 May 1984.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Dec 1985
Calendar, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
18 Dec 1985
Calendar, pp. 1-2.
New York Times
17 Feb 1984.
---
New York Times
5 Oct 1984.
---
New York Times
18 Dec 1985
p. 17.
Playgirl
Jan 1986
pp. 27-29.
Variety
14 Oct 1964.
---
Variety
16 Apr 1969
p. 7.
Variety
13 Aug 1969
p. 16.
Variety
22 Apr 1970
p. 30.
Variety
6 May 1970
p. 99.
Variety
17 Jul 1971.
---
Variety
31 Jul 1974.
---
Variety
20 Feb 1985.
---
Variety
11 Dec 1985
p. 17.
Variety
9 Apr 1986.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Mirage Enterprises production
A Sydney Pollack film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Aerial photog
Steadicam op
Grip
Grip
Grip
Best boy
Stills photog
2d unit cam op
Main titles des
Titles by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dir
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const mgr
Prop master
MUSIC
Orig mus comp and cond
Mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
Mus research
African mus adv
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
MAKEUP
Miss Streep's hair and make-up artist
Mr. Redford's make-up artist
Chief make-up artist
Make-up artist
Chief hairdresser
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Loc and field consultant
Prod consultant
Scr supv
Scr supv
Prod coord
Post prod supv
Local casting, Kenya
Prod accountant
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod secy
Voice casting
Chief animal trainer
Kikuyu adv
Loc camps and safari transport services provided b
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Out of Africa (Breve fra Afrika, 1914-1924 & 1925-1931) (London, 1937) and other writings by Isak Dinesen, the book Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller by Judith Thurman (New York, 1982) and the book Silence Will Speak by Errol Trzebinski (London, 1977).
SONGS
"Concerto For Clarinet And Orchestra In A (K.622)," written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Jack Brymer, clarinet, The Academy of St. Martin-In-The-Fields, directed by Neville Marriner, used courtesy of Philips Classics Productions, The Netherlands
"Sonata In A Major (K.331) 'Rondo Alla Turca,'" written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Andras Schiff, used courtesy of London Records, A Division of Polygram Classics, Inc.
"Sinfonia Concertante In E Flat Major for Violin and Viola (K.364)," written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Alan Loveday, violin, Stephen Shingles, Viola, The Academy of St. Martin-In-The-Fields, directed by Neville Marriner, used courtesy of London Records, A Division of Polygram Classics, Inc.
+
SONGS
"Concerto For Clarinet And Orchestra In A (K.622)," written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Jack Brymer, clarinet, The Academy of St. Martin-In-The-Fields, directed by Neville Marriner, used courtesy of Philips Classics Productions, The Netherlands
"Sonata In A Major (K.331) 'Rondo Alla Turca,'" written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Andras Schiff, used courtesy of London Records, A Division of Polygram Classics, Inc.
"Sinfonia Concertante In E Flat Major for Violin and Viola (K.364)," written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Alan Loveday, violin, Stephen Shingles, Viola, The Academy of St. Martin-In-The-Fields, directed by Neville Marriner, used courtesy of London Records, A Division of Polygram Classics, Inc.
"Three Divertimenti (K. 136, 137, 138)," written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by The Academy of St. Martin-In-The Fields, directed by Neville Marriner, used courtesy of London Records, A Division of Polygram Classics, Inc.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 December 1985
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Century City: 10 December 1985
Los Angeles and New York openings: 18 December 1985
Production Date:
14 January--early June 1985
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
21 March 1986
Copyright Number:
PA280542
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Prints
Filmed in Technovision
Duration(in mins):
155 or 161-62
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27983
SYNOPSIS

In 1913 Kenya, East Africa, a Danish aristocrat named Karen Christenze Dinesen travels cross-country by train to Nairobi, where she will be married to Baron Bror Blixen, a nobleman who lost his family fortune and is seeking adventure in the British colony. Although Karen was recently betrothed to Bror’s twin brother, he broke off the engagement, and she convinced Bror to enter into a marriage of convenience, in which she will invest her dowry as venture capital for a dairy farm. Fearing spinsterhood and domestic servitude, Karen hopes the enterprise will secure her independence. On the way to Nairobi, Karen’s train is briefly delayed by a mysterious game hunter, Denys George Finch Hatton. He loads elephant tusks into the cargo car, and asks her to deliver them to his associate, Berkeley Cole. Arriving at her destination, Karen is met by an African manservant, Farah Aden, who takes her to the Muthaiga Club, a British establishment that prohibits women. After a brief, informal wedding to Bror outside, Karen’s curiosity leads her to a club apartment filled with books. Her trespassing is interrupted by the kindly Berkeley Cole, who has retrieved the tusks and reveals that the residence belongs to Denys. Karen insists on leaving the resort before making a second encounter with the enigmatic sportsman, and travels through the night to her new home on a remote farm. There, she is distressed to learn that Bror has used her money to purchase a coffee plantation instead of a dairy ranch, and is further perturbed when her husband leaves for an extended hunting trip with no plans to return. Mourning her abandonment, ... +


In 1913 Kenya, East Africa, a Danish aristocrat named Karen Christenze Dinesen travels cross-country by train to Nairobi, where she will be married to Baron Bror Blixen, a nobleman who lost his family fortune and is seeking adventure in the British colony. Although Karen was recently betrothed to Bror’s twin brother, he broke off the engagement, and she convinced Bror to enter into a marriage of convenience, in which she will invest her dowry as venture capital for a dairy farm. Fearing spinsterhood and domestic servitude, Karen hopes the enterprise will secure her independence. On the way to Nairobi, Karen’s train is briefly delayed by a mysterious game hunter, Denys George Finch Hatton. He loads elephant tusks into the cargo car, and asks her to deliver them to his associate, Berkeley Cole. Arriving at her destination, Karen is met by an African manservant, Farah Aden, who takes her to the Muthaiga Club, a British establishment that prohibits women. After a brief, informal wedding to Bror outside, Karen’s curiosity leads her to a club apartment filled with books. Her trespassing is interrupted by the kindly Berkeley Cole, who has retrieved the tusks and reveals that the residence belongs to Denys. Karen insists on leaving the resort before making a second encounter with the enigmatic sportsman, and travels through the night to her new home on a remote farm. There, she is distressed to learn that Bror has used her money to purchase a coffee plantation instead of a dairy ranch, and is further perturbed when her husband leaves for an extended hunting trip with no plans to return. Mourning her abandonment, Karen gets to work planting coffee beans, and hires local Kikuyu tribesmen for labor. One day, Karen sets out alone on a hunting safari and is cornered by a lioness, but Denys comes to her rescue, and she invites him back to the farm with his travelling companion, Berkeley. At dinner, Denys asks Karen to tell them a story and is mesmerized by her imagination. Karen, who declines to be identified as a writer and refers to herself as a “mental traveler,” is delighted by her newfound company, and is reluctant to bid them farewell. As Denys leaves, he gives Karen a pen and urges her to become an author. Alone again, Karen loses patience with Bror’s truancy and heads out in search of her wayward husband. When she orders him to come home, their bond becomes more intimate, and they make love. However, their budding domesticity is interrupted by the start of WWI, and Bror leaves again to fight on the African front. In time, Karen receives a request for supplies and sets out on a safari to deliver the goods, ignoring warnings from friends and tribesmen. Karen crosses paths with Denys on her treacherous journey, and he gives her a compass. She arrives at Bror’s camp disheveled but victorious, and the troops are stunned by her bravery. Bror admits his disinterest in the farm, but Karen has fallen in love, and wants to enjoy their romance. Returning home alone, Karen learns she has contracted syphilis from Bror’s rampant infidelities, and is forced to go back to Denmark for arsenic treatment. She survives, although she loses her ability to have children. Back in Nairobi, Karen oversees the thriving coffee plantation and establishes a school for the Kikuyu children, defying protests from Chief Kinanjui and British colonists. At a New Year’s Eve celebration, Karen is reunited with Denys. He argues against assimilating Kikuyu youths, noting that their indigenous culture must be preserved, but kisses Karen at the stroke of midnight. Meanwhile, Bror makes love to a mistress in his car. When Karen discovers the transgression, she orders her husband to leave. She continues to manage the plantation single-handedly, but her enterprise suffers with the falling prices of coffee beans. One day, Karen receives an unexpected visit from Denys, who invites her to join him on a safari. During their adventure, they camp in the wilderness and share stories of their past lives. Karen reveals that her father committed suicide when she was ten years old, and Denys washes her tangled hair. On a hunt, the two are charged by a pair of lions and narrowly survive. As their friendship evolves, Karen warns Denys that she had syphilis and is infertile, but he is undeterred, and they make love. Still, Denys is not interested in domestic life, and when the safari is over, he leaves Karen at the farm. Berkeley warns her to be wary of Denys, and suggests she divorce Bror to establish herself as an independent woman. Karen declines, musing that she must keep her marriage because she will never be able to hold on to Denys. In time, Denys returns for a passionate reunion, and shares news that Berkeley is dying from malaria. His friend has maintained a secret romance with a Somali woman for years, and the newly divulged affair has sparked controversy among expatriates. With new appreciation for committed relationships, Denys establishes a home base at Karen’s farm. The couple creates an unconventional union, in which Denys leaves for weeks at a time, and Karen stays home to write. One day, Denys returns in a biplane and takes Karen for an exhilarating flight above the African landscape. Although Karen flourishes in love, her crops wane, and she is forced to secure a risky loan. The bank threatens to take over her land, and evict the Kikuyu natives. Sometime later, Bror asks Karen for a divorce so he can marry another woman. Karen appeals to Denys for a marriage proposal, but he declines, declaring his dedication to personal freedom. When he considers taking a female friend on a safari, Karen asks him to move out. While Karen’s crops improve, her plantation is destroyed in a fire, and she decides to leave Africa. At a garden party, she approaches British governor Sir Joseph Byrne on bended knees, begging him to grant land rights to the Kikuyu, and his wife promises to oblige. As Karen walks away, Denys offers to lend support, but she refuses. He later visits the farm, and admits he no longer wants to be alone. Although Karen remains firm in her decision to leave, she accepts his invitation to fly her to Mombasa, where she will meet her boat for Denmark. Before his return, however, Denys is killed in a plane crash, and Karen delivers an impassioned eulogy at his hillside funeral. Moving out of Africa through Nairobi, Karen is given a hero’s welcome at the Muthaiga Club, where she was once shunned for being a woman. She bids farewell to her devoted manservant, Farah Aden, and gives him Denys’s compass. Making one last attempt to overcome distinctions of class, race, and gender, Karen asks Farah to refrain from referring to her as “msabu,” the deferential term for “mistress.” The African tribesman utters her name. Back in Denmark, Karen remembers her adventures and is heartened to learn that Denys’s grave is frequented by lions. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.