Friday, 24 July 2015

The White Masai (4½ Stars)

This film is based on the first volume of the autobiography of Corinne Hofmann, which sold more than four million copies worldwide. The names of the characters have been changed for the film, but the dates and places are the same.

In 1986 Carola Lehmann went to Kenya on holiday with her boyfriend. While there she became infatuated with Lemalien, a Sambura warrior that she saw dressed in his traditional tribal clothing. On the spur of the moment she decided not to go home to Switzerland. Instead, she moved to Lemalien's remote village and married him.

At first things go well for Carola. Then she realises that life with Lemalien isn't as easy as she imagined. The cultural differences are overwhelming. It's a patriarchal society where the women have to work to support their husbands. The men sometimes go hunting, but they eat the best food among themselves and only give the women the scraps. Carola opens a store to support her family, but this leads to even more problems. Lemalien grows insanely jealous when he sees her smiling at male customers, and he accuses her of having a lover.

The film was made on location in Kenya. Apart from the main actors, extras were used from the Sambura tribe for the sake of realism. The cast and crew lived with the Samburas while they made the film to learn about their lives and their culture.

The panoramic scenery of the film is overwhelming. Obviously the director, Hermine Huntgeburth, fell in love with the beauty of the Kenyan wilderness, and she did her best to present it at every possible opportunity.

Just as overwhelming is Nina Hoss's beauty in the main role as Carola. I've always been fascinated by her face, and the film offers many close-ups. Please forgive me for the many screenshots that I've decided to share with you.

Lemalien is played by the French African actor Jacky Ido. He puts on an amazing performance, considering this was his first film. Since then he's appeared in about a dozen French films, but he's best known for his role as the projectionist in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds". He also has an important role in the German film "West" as the American secret service agent John Bird.

The film was released in America in 2005, but is sadly already out of print. It's still available in Germany, but the German edition doesn't contain English subtitles. Sorry.

Maybe the film's one fault is that Nina Hoss doesn't have a Swiss accent. She's from Germany and was born in Stuttgart. She doesn't speak the local Stuttgart accent (Swabian) in the film, she speaks Hochdeutsch, "high German". The DVD contains an interview with Corinne Hofmann, and she has a strong Swiss accent. It was probably better that Nina didn't try to imitate a Swiss accent. It wouldn't have turned out well.

I intend to re-watch some of Nina's films over the next few weeks. If I get round to it. My pile of DVDs that I want to watch again is getting higher every day. So many films, so little time.

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