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KAREN: I've written about all the others, not because I loved them less, but because they were clearer, easier.
Denys was very mysterious and unattainable. Their relationship was strange and complicated, with an abrupt and tragic finality to it. It made for a good memoir, but Karen suggests here that she needed time and perspective to do it right.
BROR: It's not as though you loved him. You'd like to be a baroness, that's all.
Karen loved Bror's brother, and Bror was more her friend. This is a conversation held between close friends: direct and honest. Perhaps she loved him for his title as well, but it's pretty clear that they're getting married for reasons other than romance.
KAREN: Bror, listen to me. I've got no life at all. They wouldn't teach me anything useful. Now I've failed to marry. You know the punishment for that. "Miss Dinesen's at home." You've gone through all your money. You're off seducing the servant girls. We're a pair, you and I. I mean, at least we're friends. We might be all right. And if we weren't...at least we'd have been somewhere.
BROR: You don't think you're being too romantic? Am I supposed to think you're serious?
Karen views marriage as a contract. She needs certain things to get out of her repressive bourgeois life, and Bror is broke. They're up front about it, so there's supposed to be no surprises. (Supposed to be.)
BERKELEY: I had a friend who I used to take to the dances at Oxford. They were in June by the river. She always wore a new silk dress. I think you're wearing her perfume. It's very nice, but it's not the same.
Berkeley is coyly flirting with Karen comparing her to an old flame. Well played, sir. One of the transgressive scenes in the film is when we realize that Berkeley, that proper English gentleman, has been carrying on an affair with his African servant.
KAREN: Next time you change your mind, you do it with your money.
BROR: They bought you a title, Baronessa. They didn't buy me.
KAREN: Fetch some wine for my lover's brother.
BROR: I think you're tired. Be careful.
KAREN: Did I tell you Hans came to say goodbye?
There's a reason why dramas so often feature love triangles: they're contentious and intense. Lots of yelling, which means great big emotions and great big drama.
KAREN: Do you really prefer [animals] to people?
DENYS: Sometimes. They don't do anything half-heartedly. Everything's for the first time. Hunting, working, mating. It's only man that does it badly. It's only man that tires of going through it. Who says, "See here. Now I know how you feel about me and you know how I feel about you, and we understand each other, so let's lie down and get on with it."
This scene is one of the many between Karen and Denys that resembles a strange romantic negotiation. Denys is about as subtle as a baseball bat to the gut, but it might also be the best way these two have of communicating their feelings.
KAREN: Oh, my God. I'll go to him.
DENYS: No, he wouldn't want you there.
DENYS: There's a woman there. She's Somali. She's been with him for some time.
KAREN: You never told me this.
DENYS: I didn't know.
When Karen learns of Berkeley's failing health, she wants to be there for him. We've already seen her administering basic medical care to the tribespeople, so it's reasonable to assume that she had some skill caring for the sick. Neither Karen nor Denys knew that Berkeley was involved with a Somali woman, but Denys assumes this is something that Berkeley wouldn't want to advertise.
KAREN: Why is your freedom more important than mine?
DENYS: It isn't. And I've never interfered with your freedom.
KAREN: No. I'm not allowed to need you. Or rely on you, or expect anything from you. I'm free to leave. But I do need you.
DENYS: You don't need me. If I die, will you die? You don't need me. You're confused. You've mixed up need with want. You always have.
KAREN: My God. In the world that you would make, there would be no love at all.
DENYS: Or the best kind. The kind we wouldn't have to prove.
KAREN: You'll be living on the moon then.
Put a ring on it? Not likely. Denys thinks that commitment is like a prison sentence. Karen has some trust issues, which is understandable after her ordeal with Bror. That's ultimately the thing that drives them apart, even though they really and truly love each other. Love just means different things to each of them.
DENYS: Let me help you.
KAREN: You would keep me, then? No. I want to be worth something now.
Karen's not interested in Denys just helping her financially; she still has this idea that marriage somehow defines her worth. This is not something that the real Karen believed for a minute, but it was pretty common at the time: another way to keep the sisters down.
KAREN: Now take back the soul of Denys George Finch Hatton whom You have shared with us. He brought us joy and we loved him well. He was not ours. He was not mine.
Karen honors Denys by seeming to acknowledge his attitudes about love, which don't come with ideas of ownership or control.
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