Study Guide

Out of Africa Genre

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Autobiography, Drama, Romance

Out of Africa is based on the real-life experiences of Actual Person Karen Blixen (a.k.a. Isak Dinesen), and while some minor changes have been made for dramatic purposes (code word for "Hollywood's gotta muck with it to make it more movie-friendly"), it more or less unfolds as it happened to her in real life but in concentrated form. Add to that her voice-over narration just so we're clear about where it's coming from, and you have yourself a pretty clear case of autobiography.

Drama kind of serves as a fallback genre description, but in this case, it's pretty literal. In fact, there may be a little more drama than our heroine would like: philandering husband gives her syphilis, plantation burns down, incapable of bearing children, and oh yeah, the love of her life keeps her at arm's length before dying in a plane crash. That's enough drama for a dozen movies, and yet somehow this one fits it in to an admittedly sprawling two hours and forty minutes.

(This is why they created intermissions. Just saying.)

Finally, there's the big sell: romance. Romance isn't exactly high on the list of priorities for Karen and Bror, but Denys? Carve us off some of that action. He's tall, he's hunky, he bears a suspicious resemblance to Robert Redford, and we can't blame Karen for wanting to eat him up with a spoon. Of course, he never really commits to her—plus there's the dying—but we never said it was a happy romance. We're just glad she shared the not-quite-love of her life in her writing. It makes for an awfully good movie.

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