I woke up on Saturday morning and found myself watching Out of Africa. The movie is 30 years old this year and it was decades ago that I last saw it. Meryl Streep and Robert Redford are amazing in it and the love story between them is powerful, though unconventional. The story itself comes from real life Karin Blixen’s (pen name Isak Dinesen) diaries, who convinced the brother of her lover to marry her and take her with him on a new life adventure of Africa in the early 1900s.
When I was growing up Meryl Streep was one of the most popular actresses, and today she is still considered one of the greatest. It occurred to me that her characters made an impression on me; perhaps taught me things about being a woman that stuck with me through my life.
In fact, in nearly every Meryl Streep movie I can think of, she is a strong woman, driven by her character, sometimes used but never possessed by men; a woman who loves profoundly and yet often loses someone she loved in the end, without breaking.
I wonder how many women have had their sense of self and love affected by Meryl Streep’s characters? I am sure there are legions, and I also wonder about which actress or characters shapes these thoughts for women today.
But what strongly impresses me when I mentally process Out of Africa this second time around is the fate of all the real life animals in Africa the movie captured on film. For such a beautiful movie with wonderful actors, I felt repulsed to see Robert Redford’s entrance into the film as a big game hunter loading ivory onto the train that delivered Karin to her home in Kenya. There is even a terrible scene where the two shoot a lion and lioness that charge them in the story and I found myself hoping that footage wasn’t real – thinking that it would be entirely criminal if it were. In the early 40s there were an estimated 400,000 lions left in the world. In the 1980s when this film was made, there were around 100,000. A 2014 estimate pegged the world’s lion population at about 23,000. And that’s only the lions.
World Wildlife Fund currently lists the following species as critically endangered.
A meaningful love story for the ages and our own life stories would be to do all we can to help preserve other species. I know Karin Blixin, who got down on her knees and begged for land to keep the tribe on her farm together, would agree.