Nowhere in Africa (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner31/03/2003

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 141 mins

Oscar-winning German drama – well-acted and gorgeous to look at, but there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before.

Nowhere In Africa was the surprise winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Film, beating off more fancied contenders such as Finland’s The Man Without A Past and China’s Hero. Directed by Caroline Link (who also wrote the screenplay), it’s based on the autobiographical novel by Stefanie Zweig.

Escape From Nazi Germany

The story concerns the Redlichs, an affluent Jewish family who flee Nazi Germany in 1938 and settle in Kenya, where the father, Walter (Merab Ninidze, looking uncannily like a young Dirk Bogarde) has secured a job as a caretaker on a remote farm.

His wife Jettel (Julianne Kohler) finds it hard to adjust to her new life, although their daughter Regina (played by Lea Kurka and later by Karoline Eckertz) soon begins to fit in and makes good friends with the cook Owour, played by Sidede Onyulo.

For the most part, the film focuses on the relationship between Walter and Jettel, which is marginally filtered through the eyes of Regina, the film’s narrator. In fact, this is slightly frustrating, as the scenes dealing with Regina’s growing friendship with one of the tribal boys are much more interesting, yet are not really explored in any depth.

Well Acted And Beautifully Shot

The film is well-acted by all three leads and there’s also good support from Onyluo and from Matthias Habbick (Enemy at the Gates), who plays a friend of the family who Regina comes to suspect of having an affair with her mother. It’s also beautifully shot by cinematographer Gernot Roll, who makes the most of the sweeping landscapes at his disposal.

However, the overall effect of the film is somewhat disappointing. It’s not as moving as it ought to be and a lot of the scenes and situations will be familiar from films such as Out of Africa and have the whiff of cliché about them.

That said, the film is by no means unwatchable, although at nearly two and a half hours, it is a little too long and the final section of the film feels unnecessary.

In short, this is worth seeing if you’re in the mood for a slice of worthy period drama, but it’s nothing to get too excited about and quite why it won the Oscar remains a mystery. Good soundtrack, though.

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Content updated: 19/10/2017 15:54

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