Nowhere in Africa (Nirgendwo in Afrika) (2001)

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Released 19-May-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Interviews-Crew-Stefanie Zweig (Author Of Nowhere In Africa)
Notes-Interview With Caroline Link (Director)
Gallery-Photo-10
Theatrical Trailer-2 - German And US
Trailer-Lost In La Mancha, Standing In the Shadows Of Motown
Trailer-Russian Ark, Bowling For Columbine, Monsoon Wedding
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 135:42 (Case: 141)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (86:13) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Caroline Link
Studio
Distributor
Bavaria Film Int
Madman Entertainment
Starring Juliane Köhler
Merab Ninidze
Sidede Onyulo
Matthias Habich
Lea Kurka
Karoline Eckertz
Gerd Heinz
Hildegard Schmahl
Maritta Horwarth
Regine Zimmermann
Gabrielle Odinis
Bettina Redlich
Julia Leidl
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Niki Reiser
Jochen Schmidt-Hambrock


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Here is my one sentence review of Nowhere In Africa (aka Nirgendwo in Afrika) :

     Make sure you see this film!

      It is utterly beautiful. The photography is exquisite, the story rich and delicate, the acting subtle and sublime - the time simply melted away as I watched it, and after the 2 hours or so, I was disappointed that it had finished.

      Based on the autobiographical novel of Stefanie Zweig, director Caroline Link has created a story where the people and landscape of Kenya come up to meet the viewer without a hint of parody or cliché.

      Walter and Jettel Redlich (Merab Ninidze and Juliane Köhler) are an affluent couple with a loving family around them and a treasured little daughter, Regina (Lea Kurka). They live in genteel middle class comfort in Frankfurt where Walter enjoys his career as a lawyer. Unfortunately, this is 1938, and the Redlichs are Jewish. Fleeing the increasing threat of Nazism in the homeland, Walter secures assisted passage from the Jewish community in Kenya who find him work as a caretaker manager on an English colonialist's farm. The farm is impoverished, threatened by drought and a malarial breeding ground, but fearing the rising political threat in Germany, Walter nevertheless calls for Jettel and Regina to join him.

      For Jettel, the transition is agonising. From pampered luxury and privilege to dust and the drone of flies - she is hopelessly unprepared for her new life and becomes sullen, listless and argumentative. Little Regina, however, is cautiously adventurous and far more open to her new surrounds. With the assistance of the gentle cook, Owuor (Sidede Onyulo) she rapidly gains her bearings and begins to assimilate herself fully into this new landscape. Whilst her parents struggle to re-establish their marriage under the new terms imposed by their changed lives, Regina quickly begins to learn Swahili and make local friends.

      Strangely enough, although they were never particularly assiduous about practising their Judaism in Germany, now that they are so far away, with so very few frames of reference, the frequent visits of Walter's friend, Süßkind (Matthias Habich) to share their lives and the Sabbath meal becomes a lifeline, particularly to Jettel.

      For some time, the lives of our three cuckoos are relatively uneventful in their strange, wide nest. But as war is declared in Europe, both Walter and Süßkind are interned as nationals of the enemy. Jettel and Regina too are taken away, to be held in strangely fine style at the Norfolk Hotel. An army officer at the hotel indicates to Jettel that he may be able to find a replacement farm for them to manage - at a price of course. And as Jews, it is reasonable to suppose that they are by no means enemies to the Allies. Particularly if Walter should join the English Army.

      Slowly, the lives of the Redlichs become more independent of each other. As Walter does join up with the English Army, Jettel gets more and more dust in her veins. The land is starting to pulse within her, and its upkeep and fecundity become a deeper and deeper concern to her. For Regina (now played by Karoline Eckertz in one of the most seamless "growing up" dissolves you're ever likely to see), who is already a converted child of the Savannah, her new challenge is English Private School in the city - where she is academically gifted in spite of the xenophobic behaviour imposed on her by students and staff alike. As Owuor once says to her, she is wise, and she is able to operate from a detached place where prejudice effectively does not reach her. When Winston Churchill declares victory for the allies, Walter returns to the farm exuberant. His idealism still has its heart beating in Germany. He applies to become a judge in the post war fatherland. Jettel and Süßkind have been forming a deeper and deeper bond whilst Walter has been away - a bond founded in mutual love of the land, and equally mutual emotional need. And of course, this only deepens Walter's resolve to repatriate his family to Germany.

      Across the rest of the story I shall draw a veil to be revealed by you, the viewer. Truly, this is a film to savour and enjoy. I'm always a little concerned about writing synopses, as broad-stroke outlines of film storylines often give them the appearance of lurid soapies. Trust me, this is not. This is one of the most dignified, intelligent, warm and gently complex films I've seen in a long while. The people who dwell in this story are of flesh and clay and dust. They are utterly human, noble, duplicitous and complicated. This is not a "good guy/bad guy" film - it is much richer than that. Zweig's novel is candidly autobiographical - characters like Owuor and Süßkind are real enough, as are all the Redlichs in their complications, needs and losses. Link's determination to film in the actual location where the story was set, and use actors from those exact locales was an utterly intelligent, correct decision. As she put it, "I don't think it's a good idea to dress up Zulus as Masaii or vice versa. Those details have to be true because, after all, the people tell much about their country and lend a special atmosphere and sense of place to the film." Hear hear, I say.

      This film won the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year Oscar for 2003. More importantly, it won 5 Lolas - the German Academy, Deutscher Filmpreis awards of 2002. No doubt it is going to attract comparisons with Out Of Africa, but I think that is irrelevant. This story stands proudly and beautifully on its own merits. May I repeat my one line review? If you love rich, warm, low key cinema.....make sure you see this film!

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.30:1, 16x9 enhanced.

     The transfer is clean and rich. There are some challenges with luminance with the print overall appearing a little dark, but whites are white and blacks are black, so that's a good start. This general darkness does compromise shadow detail, but fortunately, there is no low level noise to offend one's sensibilities. Grain levels are very fine throughout.

     There were times when the colour was somewhat oversaturated, and this resulted in skin tones appearing a little "overheated" at times. However, in general, the palette was rich and warm, and colours held together without bleeding or making a halated mess.

     With the exception of very minor aliasing and occasional motion blur, this transfer is relatively MPEG artefact free, and film artefact free as well.

     Subtitles were clean, easy to read and accurate.

     This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 86:13. It is very subtle and not a distraction at all.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There are two audio tracks on this DVD. The default is a German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) and also available is German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). I listened to the 5.1.

     Dialogue was always clean, clear and bright and audio sync appeared to present no problem.

     The musical score by Niki Reiser was deservedly one of the Lola winners. A blend between intense, earthy African rhythms and elegant, austere European influences, it was a haunting and elegant score.

     The surround channels were perfectly utilised - providing a background audioscape without ever dominating. Likewise, the use of the subwoofer appeared to be mimicking the earthy elements of the story. A superb aural interpretation and reinforcement of the story.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

     The menu design is static with a Dolby Digital 2.0 track playing a theme from the film.

Interview - Stefanie Zweig (Author) (7:54)

     The questions are presented textually, and Zweig then answers in video. There are gentle little digs in the underbrush about her points of departure with Director Link.

Interview - Caroline Link (Director) (Text - 7 pages)

     A replication of the text interview presented on the official website. An interesting interview that explores Link's commitment to the project's authenticity.

Theatrical Trailers

    Two are provided. The English (US) version at 2 minutes, 15 seconds. The second, the German one (2.50) is a little curious, as they somehow managed to tack onto the end of it another bit of another film entirely. What the??????

Madman Propaganda: Trailers

     Trailers for:
     Lost in La Mancha (1:33) (See This Movie!!)
     Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2:04)
     Russian Ark (2:10)
     Bowling For Columbine (1:57) (See This Movie!!)
     Monsoon Wedding (2:13) (See This Movie!!)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

     Dang - that's an impressive set of R1 features - I'd love to see every one of them. R1 - you rock.

Summary

     A magnificent film that is sentimental without being remotely cloying. It is majestic in every sense without ever exceeding the bounds of restraint. Nowhere in Africa is a film I heartily recommend. It is rich, complex, non-judgemental, broad, warm, subtle and clever. The acting is superlative, the photography exquisite. If you wish to be emotionally and aesthetically transported, then go Nowhere in Africa.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

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