I Dreamed of Africa: Collector's Edition (1999)
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Isolated Musical Score
Featurette-HBO Making Of
Audio Commentary-Hugh Hudson (Director)
Biographies-Cast & Crew
|Year Of Production||1999|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (52:50)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Hugh Hudson|
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Eva Marie Saint
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 5.0 (448Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
German Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, scenery of Africa|
As you can probably guess, there is actually a real life person called Kuki Gallmann, and this movie is based on her autobiography (with the same title as the movie). She has also published a follow up book called African Nights and a collection of poetry called Il Colore del Vento. In addition to being a successful author, she is also a staunch wildlife conservationist.
The film starts with Paolo and Kuki emerging from a restaurant with a group of friends. The group hops into Paolo's car to go to a bar. During the journey, they are involved in a horrible car accident (not Paolo's fault) resulting in the death of Kuki's friend, a broken leg and bruises for Kuki and minor injuries for Paolo. As Kuki slowly recovers, she and Paolo got to know each other better and eventually they fell in love. Paolo also develops a good relationship with Kuki's son Emanuele (shortened to Ema for much of the movie).
Paolo has been to Africa before and Kuki's father has told her stories of Africa when she was a child. So, when Paolo proposes marriage and suggests they move to Africa, Kuki accepts, despite the initial reservations of her mother. The rest of the movie is about them settling into Africa, moving into a badly-maintained ranch called Ol Ari Nyiro and building a life in Africa. We see Kuki becoming more and more self-reliant as Paolo spends days at a time hunting with his friends and we get to watch Ema growing up. Over time, Kuki learns to accept the "different rhythm" of life in Africa, confront the beauty as well as the danger of Africa, establish relationships with the local tribe, develop a passion for preserving the wildlife, and eventually face up and survive the pain of personal loss.
In between, we are treated to some breathtaking views of African landscape and wildlife. Although most of the movie was shot on location in South Africa instead of Kenya (much to the real Kuki's disappointment), there were some location scenes shot on the real Ol Ari Nyiro ranch itself.
I would have loved to say that I really enjoyed the movie, as there were elements of the story that really appealed to me. Unfortunately, the movie failed to "click" for me. In trying to compress a whole book into less than 2 hours, I felt like I was watching Kuki's life flash by with the Fast Forward button activated on the remote. Not having read the book on which the movie was based, I sometimes did not fully appreciate the significance of some of the scenes. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that I think I intellectually understood what each scene was about but it failed to register emotionally with me.
The scenes were also necessary disjointed, and none of the aspects of the Gallmann's' life in Africa were developed to the extent that we get drawn into their lives. We are afforded no more than brief glimpses into important aspects of their lives, such as their relationship with the tribespeople, servants, the wildlife and poachers, the land, even their day-to-day activities maintaining and running the ranch. So, ultimately, I failed to relate to them and when major events happened to them I failed to be emotionally involved. I suspect the story would have worked better as a 3 hour movie or even a mini-series.
Another aspect that bothered me was the casting. For a movie about Italians living in Africa, none of the main cast members are Italian which I think is a shame. Paolo is a Swiss of Spanish descent, with an accent that is not even vaguely Italian, and Kim and her mother (played by Eva Marie Saint) look and talk 100% American.
The real Kuki sounds like a very interesting person to know and to talk to and I would very much like to meet her. One good thing from watching this movie is that I will try and see if I can borrow the book the next time I go to the library.
When I first watched the movie on this disc, I had the impression that the transfer was somewhat soft with muted colours. However, I've revised my opinion on subsequent rewatchings (with the audio commentary track and with the isolated musical score). I would say the transfer has excellent sharpness and detail. However, because this movie is set in Africa there are lots of shots of sweeping but hazy African landscapes that can create an impression of softness. There is some evidence that edge enhancement has been utilized, leading to occasional minor halo effects, but these are few and far between and are never significant enough to intrude on the viewer enjoyment. Shadow detail is acceptable, even during dark scenes (such as those shot in the night-time).
I still can't help feeling, however, that colour saturation is below par, even though I suspect the colour saturation is probably a lot closer to reality than my eyes are prepared to admit. Much of the film is shot in the outdoors during daylight, and the wide open spaces will appear somewhat hazy on camera, thus the film is probably capturing the colours accurately. A good yardstick is skin colours, and on this transfer flesh colours look realistic at all times. However, there are no scenes where the colours are brightly saturated a la the dance sequence during the opening titles of Austin Powers, not even in interior shots or night-time shots. Occasionally, we see brightly coloured clothing being worn, but the colours never grab the eyes for attention the way they should.
The transfer is relatively free of MPEG or other video artefacts, apart from a slight video master glitch (horizontal white line) appearing at the middle left of the screen at 52:43 (just prior to the layer change), some ringing around the credits during the opening titles, minor posterization (note the foliage at 17:39 and Charlie's face at 62:05), and some pixelization/aliasing effects especially of near horizontal lines.
The film source seems to be somewhat less than perfect, as there are minor dust, scratches and black marks appearing throughout the film. These are especially noticeable against a bright background (like the sky). Fortunately, the film seems relatively free of grain.
The disc comes with no less than 17 subtitle tracks ranging from English to the Scandinavian languages (all four) and even Hindi and Arabic. Even the commentary track is subtitled in German and Dutch.
This is a single sided dual layer disc (RSDL) and the layer change occurs at 52:50. It does occur in the middle of a scene, so whether this change is objectionable or not will depend upon your DVD player. On mine, it shows up as a minor freeze but acceptable. However, I did notice a glitch (looks like a set of fuzzy white rectangles) in the bottom left hand corner of the screen (in the black bar area) during the freeze.
The audio track sounds clear and well-mixed. Even though the film itself is fairly dialogue focused, the surround channels are utilized for ambience (rain, birds) as well as for music, creating a realistic enveloping aural effect at all times. Even so, the rear channels are never aggressively utilized, except during the storm scene about 63 minutes into the feature where all channels are used including the subwoofer. There is no evidence of sound glitches such as distortion or lack of audio synchronization.
The original musical score by Maurice Jarre effectively complements and supports the film, and helps underscore the grandeur and majesty of the African scenes.
Overall, I quite like the audio transfer, but it falls short of reference quality because it seemed to lack the "punch" of a reference quality audio master and the additional "sparkle" that makes you notice even the tiniest details because they sound perfectly appropriate and realistic.
|Surround Channel Use|
I found it instructive to compare Hollywood hype against reality by contrasting Kim's interview (in which she gushes about how much she wanted to do the movie because she really identified with Kuki and how she felt she understood Kuki) against the real Kuki's comment on Kim, as quoted by Susan Granger: "I don't know her, and she doesn't know me. If I'd been given the task of interpreting you in a movie, I would have come and met you, right? I would have made it my business to get to know you."
It is presented on a DVD with above average video and audio transfers. The video transfer does, however, suffer from a number of minor film and video glitches, but nothing that would cause annoyance. It has a good collection of extras and is well sub-titled with foreign languages.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-626D, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (203cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||Front left/right: B&W DM603; centre: B&W CC6S2, rear left/right: B&W DM601|