Out of Africa (1985)

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Released 5-Feb-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-A Song Of Africa
Audio Commentary-Sydney Pollack (Director)
Production Notes
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Web Links
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 154:17
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (92:41) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Sydney Pollack
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Meryl Streep
Robert Redford
Klaus Maria Brandauer
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $36.95 Music John Barry


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.0 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Greek
Danish
Finnish
Swedish
Norwegian
German
Dutch
Czech
Polish
Turkish
Hungarian
Bulgarian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Out Of Africa is an intoxicating and enchanting movie. The story is thoroughly absorbing, the cinematography (largely shot on location in Kenya) is breathtakingly beautiful, and the acting and direction is sublime. On the whole, it remains an expertly-crafted, wonderful movie, and arguably, one of the greatest epic romantic movies ever made.

    The movie Out Of Africa is based on the book of the same name, which contains the memoirs of Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen is her pen-name). I own a copy of the book, and find that Blixen effortlessly casts a spell over the reader, as the wonderful images of an idealised Africa pour from the pages. I was born in South Africa, and I have always held a fascination for the amazing and varied people, fauna, and flora of Africa. I have returned a few times, and enjoyed safaris through South Africa, and up the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe. I vividly recall sleeping in a tent and hearing the cackle of hyenas, or the moaning, guttural growl of a lion at night -- so full of yearning -- or wandering through a thicket, and into a clearing, only to come across a zebra, a giraffe or a cape buffalo. The sounds, sights and smells of Africa never leave you, and movies like this bring some of the amazing sights and sounds of Africa flooding into the home-theatre (or living room).

    The story begins in 1913, with a marriage of convenience. Karen's (Meryl Streep) family has money, and Baron Bror Blixen's (Klaus Maria Brandauer) family has a title and prestige, so Karen leaves her home in Denmark to marry Bror in Kenya. They establish a farm with Karen's money, and Karen soon discovers that her husband has very little interest in either her or the farm. Bror departs to pursue his own selfish interests -- hunting animals, drinking, and womanising. Karen soldiers on against considerable adversity, and reveals herself to be a fiery, very capable and head-strong woman. While this shocks and outrages the fine sensibilities of many of the English colonials, others are attracted to this. One such person is a safari guide, big-game hunter and free-spirit, Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford). Denys is bewitched by this independent and feisty woman. A romance ensues, but it is not just a personal romance -- it is a romance with Africa herself. Through Karen's courage and dedication against some very long odds, she slowly manages to win the respect and admiration of both the indigenous people, the Kikuyu, and the European settlers.

    This movie exhibits outstanding production values, and deserved the seven Academy Awards it won in 1985: Best Picture, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Directing, Best Sound, and Best Screenplay. All of those elements are truly superb. Furthermore, in the lead role, Meryl Streep clearly exhibits why she is the finest film actress of all time. Indeed, the entire cast all turn in brilliant performances. In their supporting roles, both Robert Redford and the brilliant Klaus Maria Brandauer are exceptional.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I must admit that I was slightly disappointed with the quality of the transfer. It appears that the source material has not aged that well. While being infinitely superior to my old VHS tape, the image is grainy throughout, and quite hazy at times.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is reasonably sharp throughout, but some scenes are very soft, such as at 135:51, which bordered on being blurry. The shadow detail was not too great either, as evidenced in many scenes, such as the shot of the bookshelf at 15:51, or the exterior night shot at 16:54.

    The overall picture was a little dark throughout, and the colour generally appeared a little faded and 'washed out'. Despite this, the movie still successfully captures many of the rich colours of Africa.

    MPEG artefacts are present, but I never found them distracting. There is slight pixelization throughout, and some mild posterization occasionally, such as at 52:59. Very slight macro-blocking was also occasionally present, such as on the background wall at 132:38.

    Film-to-video artefacts are also present. While it is tempting to claim that there is no aliasing, there is a slight shimmer on a few objects, such as on the pattern on the blanket at 54:56. Sadly, there is also telecine wobble throughout. While it is most noticeable during the opening credits, for example at 5:48, some scenes are very, very shaky, for example 34:14.

    A variety of mostly tiny film artefacts appear throughout, and larger examples can be seen at 27:58 and 86:54.

    Sometimes there appeared to be very slight edge enhancement, but it never drew attention to itself.

    There are 14 sets of subtitles present on this DVD, and the English subtitles are accurate.

    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 92:41. It is relatively smooth, but it occurs during a tense scene, so I found it mildly disruptive.

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

Audio

    Originally released in six-track 70mm Dolby Stereo, and winning Best Sound at the Academy Awards, this a great audio track for a mid 1980s movie.

    Apart from the default (remixed) English Dolby Digital 4.1 audio track (the rear channels are identical), there are also two Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded tracks, in French and German. There is also a Dolby Digital 2.0 track for the director's commentary.

    The dialogue quality and audio sync are fine on the English Dolby Digital 4.1 audio track.

    Winning Best Original Score at the Academy Awards, the music is credited to the very talented John Barry, who of course is best remembered for his work on numerous James Bond movies. Similar to his brilliant work on the epic movies Dances With Wolves, and Zulu, Barry has crafted a very emotive and sweeping orchestral score, with lush arrangements, well-suited to this romantic epic. A number of concertos and sonatas by Mozart are also woven into the movie's music.

    I was quite surprised by the relatively high level of surround presence and activity. The rear speakers are used extensively to help carry the beautiful score, such as at 24:54, and for ambience, such as the train at 4:41. The subwoofer is utilised very subtly, and it never drew attention to itself.

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

Extras

    Lovers of this movie, like me, will be thrilled with the extras.

Menu

    A simple menu, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. It is static and silent.

Theatrical Trailer (1:32)

    This is the original trailer, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

Song Of Africa (49:33)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this is a genuine documentary. It is composed of letterboxed clips from the movie, with current interviews with Sydney Pollack, John Barry, Meryl Streep, Kurt Luedtke (screenwriter) and one of Blixen's biographers, Judith Thurman. A number of behind-the-scenes shots from the making of the movie, and stills of the 'real' characters from the movie are also included.

Production Notes

    Text-based information.

Cast and Filmmakers

    Text-based biographical information.

Universal web links

    A DVD-ROM feature, just in case you can't find your way on the Internet.

Feature Commentary

    The movie's Producer and Director, Sydney Pollack, provides a very informative commentary track, filled with anecdotes, background information and a thoughtful discussion of the script, technical features of the production, and even how the movie varied from actual events in a few places.

R4 vs R1

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

    Out Of Africa was released on DVD in Region 1 in January 2002.

    The Region 4 DVD misses out on:

    The Region 1 DVD misses out on:

   The two versions are pretty much the same, but I would favour the local release for its affordability, and most importantly, its superior PAL image.

Summary

    If you've read my reviews of Doctor Zhivago or The Last Of The Mohicans, you might be aware that I absolutely love well-crafted, epic romantic movies. If you've read those reviews, it is perhaps because you too love those sorts of movies. If so, this is one of the best ever made, and despite the flaws in the transfer, this DVD deserves a place in any movie-lover's collection.

    The video quality is slightly disappointing but still very watchable.

    The audio quality is slightly dated but still very good.

    The extras are genuine and enrich the movie experience.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Wednesday, May 29, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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