Movie Review by Alice Castle
Starring: Juliane Köhler, Regine Zimmermann, Merab Ninidze, Matthias Habich, Gabrielle Odinis
Director: Caroline Link
If you enjoyed the crisp white linens and Meryl Streep in khaki safari trousers striding around the awesome Kenyan landscape in OUT OF AFRICA – you may well expect a similar ex-pat love-story from German director Caroline Link in Oscar nominated NOWHERE IN AFRICA. This is a love story – but not so much between people – more a German-Jewish family’s love affair with Africa.
Based on an autobiography by Stephanie Zweig, the film is set in 1938 on the eve of the Second World War. German-Jew Walter Redlich (Merab Ninidze) manages to secure a safe passage to Kenya with his wife and daughter, leaving their large, wealthy family home or face the Nazis. Despite their bourgeois lifestyle in Germany, the Redlichs are bottom of the pile among the ex-pat farmers in Kenya, and have to take what little work they can find tenant farming on large plantations. Walter’s wife Jettel finds the transition difficult, determined to hold onto her middle-class lifestyle, she insists the family sit down for dinner using their finest china and shouts at the little domestic help they have. In contrast, young daughter Regina (Lea Kurka/Karoline Eckertz) begins to thrive in Kenya, learning the local language, making friends with the family’s cook Owour (Sidede Onyulo) and forgetting her life in Germany altogether.
Beautifully shot – the harsh natural environment begins to soften deliberately and as the family adapt to their life in Africa and grow to love its raw beauty, the landscapes are transformed from barren desert to lush and fertile plains. While Walter works hard to make a living, his wife looks for love outside the marriage and begins to transform from the somewhat prissy young woman she was in Germany to a sexually confident and opportunistic woman. Rejected, Walter decides to join the British army to fight against the Germans and Regina becomes more and more attached to the local people and customs.
With a stirring soundtrack, and stunning cinematography NOWHERE IN AFRICA is definitely worth seeing.