Out of Africa (1985), directed by Sydney Pollack, is an epic cross-class romance, sweeping in scale and piercing in impact. One of Meryl Streep’s earlier films, it confirms her as a force to be reckoned with. She blows the handsome-but-withering Robert Redford out of the water, so much so it seems he is merely reading lines. The film is based on the memoir of Izak Dinesen, a Danish Baroness and writer, who Streep portrays with subtlety and strength. The story follows Dinesen through her marriage to Baron Blixon, their subsequent move to Africa and construction of a coffee plantation. Her marriage, more a business transaction than love affair, dissolves almost before it begins, leaving the Baroness alone to tend to her plantation, the estate, and the Nairobi tribe living there. Of course, the adjustment is further facilitated by the ruggedly handsome Denys. Despite blights with Syphilis, bouts fighting lions, long safaris on uncharted land, war, divorce, and – at last – devastating fire, the Baroness leads a happy life and falls desperately in love. Though Denys loves her in return, his free spirit keeps his from growing roots to anyone, or anything. He comes in and out of her life, remaining separate from all the harsh realities she faces. He becomes, for her, representation of everything beautiful in the world. Eventually, loneliness wears her down, and she comes to terms with the difficult truth: love will never be enough.
The story is riveting to the end, though it is long-winded. The power of the film is in its truth. Life, as we see, does not always result in perfect harmony. The intense joys are matched by intense pains and, through the course of the film; we learn to love the characters that come alive on screen, we feel their sorrows and their triumphs. The award winning score by John Barry is as sweeping as the story, remaining – hauntingly – in your head long after the film ends. It is a near perfect movie.