Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Babette’s Feast



Notes: AøS Panorama Film International. 102 minutes.
Narrator: Ghita Nørby
Babette: Stephane Audran
Filippa: Bodil Kjer
Martine: Birgitte Federspiel
General Lowenhielm: Jarl Kulle
Achille Papin: Jean Philippa Lafont

Director: Gabriel Axel.
Producers: Just Betzer and Bo Christensen
Screenplay: Gabriel Axel
Cinematography: Henning Kristiansen
Music: Per Nøgaard
Language: Danish and French with English subtitles

Summary: On the Danish coast during the nineteenth centurytwo pious sisters, Filippa and Martine, are kind-hearted and devotedto their late father’s ministries. Long ago, they both turneddown the loves of their lives so that they could serve their father’saustere vision. Years after their father has passed away theyreceive a visitor with a letter from Achille Papin, a French operasinger who fell in love with Filippa. The letter explains howhe has sent Babette, the visitor, to them because her life wasin jeopardy in France: both her husband and son had been killed.The two sisters agree to take Babette in and Babette promisesto help them as a loyal servant. After fourteen years Babettewins 10,000 francs in a lottery. The sisters assume she’ll beleaving them now, but her only request is that she be allowedto cook the dinner that will celebrate the 100th birthday of thetwo sisters’ deceased father. The sisters, accustomed to grimmeals of boiled fish and ale-bread, tentatively agree to let hercook the meal and this is when the food takes over this film.After some of the supplies are delivered the two sisters are shockedto see that live animals are included and that Babette intendsto serve wine. After one sister has dreams of hellfire, the twosisters round up the diners and have them swear that no matterwhat the food tastes like they will not say a word. But ultimatelyBabette’s feast restored camaraderie among the typically bickeringcongregation, and the other sister’s old beau, now a general,is also in attendance. We finally learn that Babette has spentall her money, that she used to be a professional cook in France,and that her satisfaction in this event was being able to indulgeher artistic talents. The sisters actually thank her and acknowledgethat there must be food in heaven.

Commentary: The preparation of the meal is magnificent,the photography is wonderful, all the shots of the live quailsand sea turtle show just what a feast the two elderly sisterswill be treated to. The shots of the dough being cut and shapedand the quail being plucked are wonderful. The real visual feastis at the table as the guests start their meal. The soup is realturtle and the finest wines and champagnes are served. The dinnerscene is hilarious as the people begin to enjoy the meal despitetheir solemn vow not to. The next course includes Blinis Demidoffand lasts only a short time as the guests devour it. One particularlyfunny scene involves a pious elderly woman; she takes a sip ofpalate-cleansing water and grimaces with disappointment when sherealizes it is just water and proceeds to rapidly drink some morewine instead. In between courses their glasses are filled withfine wines. The next dish is Babette’s specialty, Calilles enSarcophage (quail). Every dish served at this feast is a masterpieceand leaves the viewer craving food. This film is a classic, thepresentation of the food is wonderful and the dishes are mouthwatering.Only a movie like Eat Drink Man Woman can compete withthe food moments in this film.

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