Babette’s Feast (1987) Director: Gabriel Axel
Starring: Stéphane Audran, Bodil Kjer, Birgitte Federspiel, Jarl Kulle, and Jean-Philippe Lafont
Babette contrasts with the sisters Martine and Philippa. This contrast is made clear through the different elements of the production design. Maritine and Philippa dress similar in blue and have fair skin while Babette is darker skinned. Babette’s cross necklace represents her French Catholic background which further contrasts her from the sisters. The statue of Christ in the sisters’ home is often shown in the background and reminds the audience of what a central role religion plays in their life. Indeed the sister’s religious beliefs play such a pivotal role in their lives that Babette’s foreign cuisine (quails, a live turtle, wine) appears as a form of witchcraft to them because they have lived their life rejecting the pleasure of flesh. The sisters regard food’s objective as merely providing nourishment. They are shown eating plain foods such as soaked bread and coffee. Babette adopts their simple meals, but when the opportunity arises to prepare an exquisite dinner she takes it.
The food prepared by Babette literally transforms the congregation. Grudges are lifted, kindness is manifested and love is alive and well among the people after they eat. A theme present in the movie is the misunderstood purpose of the beauty of life. Both Martine and Philippa have renounced love and lived a lonely life. The sisters struggle so hard to keep secular influence out of their lives that they misinterpret the loveliness of Babette’s meal. It is not until the meal has been consumed that Babette’s wonderful artistic expression is recognized. Babette’s feast is an expression of her appreciation and is a sacrificial act as she spends all of her lottery winnings on preparing a meal that fosters joy and love. General Lorens’ statement rings true when he states that food can be like a love affair and spiritual affair as...
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