Dir: Hugh Hudson. US. 2000. 114 mins.
Prod cos: Jaffilms. US dist: Columbia Pictures. Int'l dist: Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International. Prod: Stanley R Jaffe, Allyn Stewart. Scr: Paula Milne, from the book by Kuki Gullman. DoP: Bernard Lutic. Prod des: Andrew Sanders. Ed: Scott Thomas. Mus: Maurice Jarre. Main cast: Kim Basinger, Vincent Perez, Liam Aiken, Eva Marie Saint, Garrett Strommen, Daniel Craig, Lance Reddick, Ian Roberts.
Kuki Gullman's life, documented in her 1991 book I Dreamed Of Africa, makes for an extraordinary story but that doesn't mean it translates into compelling cinema. Opening with a near-fatal car accident and ending in a full hour of tragedy upon tragedy, Hugh Hudson's film dwells on the pain without enough of the pleasure. Why did this wealthy Italian woman abandon her life of privilege and relocate to a punishing life in Kenya' And why does she still live there, despite losing her nearest and dearest to the country' We certainly don't know after this film.
But uneven and scrappy though it is, I Dreamed Of Africa will be a hard-to-resist package for older women. It's coated in predictably breathtaking cinematography and a lush score by Maurice Jarre. Kim Basinger is a strong and appealing Gullman and Hudson wrings every last tear out of the death and funeral scenes.
The film starts with Gullman recovering from a car crash outside Venice. She (very quickly) falls for the driver of the car Paolo (Perez), marries him and together with her son, they move to Kenya. There they buy an estate and face the hardships - poachers, bad weather, poisonous snakes, lion attacks etc - that come with it.
It's very similar in story and theme to Out Of Africa but lacks that film's grandeur and real sense of what makes the heroine love the country.