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Babette's Feast - Review of an Older Film

Updated on May 20, 2018

Initial Thoughts on Babette's Feast, A Foreign Film

Recently I needed to watch Babette's Feast for a course I was taking and really wondered what it would be like. It is a foreign film that was put out in 1987. The time frame for it takes place back in the late 19th Century. The location is in a very small and remote Danish Village. The time frame is during the Franco-Prussian War. It seems to move extremely slow and the movie "doesn't seem to mind" that you may lose interest almost immediately and not watch it beyond five minutes. So that is part of the beauty right off the top. It is as if they are telling this story from a point of view of how it really was, and with no fanfare, if that makes any sense.

The two main characters besides Babette are sisters who grow old together and never marry. Their names are Filippe and Martine and were brought up in a very strict and religious environment by their father who was the town priest and prophet. The people in the village also referred to him often as pastor.

There began to be so much that intrigued me from this story that I can hardly begin to explain. I really actually loved the rhythm and movement of this film which still surprises me. The countryside where they all lived was gorgeous, with rolling hills and waves crashing of the Danish shoreline. There were beaches and bluffs in scenes in the movie which of course I loved.

The movie goes back to when Filippe and Martine were becoming women, that likely would have moved on from the home they grew up in and married, though these two did not. Forgive me for the spoiler alerts in this article, but it is necessary to explain what I hope to share here. I do not give all away though, so please make sure to see this film if you are able.

Their pastor father did seem to allow them to have the gentleman that called on the two of them, but in the end, they pushed them away every time and the gentleman would be broken hearted. A couple of them never recovered, and never married. Thus the story moves on.

Off the Coast of Denmark

There are a few brief scenes near the coast in this movie.  The Denmark coastline is beautiful and I wanted to share some here.
There are a few brief scenes near the coast in this movie. The Denmark coastline is beautiful and I wanted to share some here. | Source

The Plot Thickens - Babette Arrives and Becomes Part of their Lives

So life moved on and the preacher father passed away. The two daughters wanted to give to the village in many ways as they had learned to give from their hearts as young girls. They believed very strongly in helping the poor and destitute in their area and made it their life goal to give everything away. As the movie states, when you realize that Babette who is from France, is another woman serving the two of them as a servant, it needs some explaining. So the movie goes on to explain that.

In short, she is a refugee of the Franco Prussian War and has lost both her husband and son. She has lost everything. She did have a nephew that often sailed and when he was leaving one time, someone asked him if he knew of any kind souls in Denmark that might want to help Babette out in her plight? This is how the Filippe and Martine came to the mind of one of the older gentleman suitors that they once knew. So she packed what she could and arrived one night walking through the small village in a rainstorm, with a letter written to the two sisters explaining what was being requested of them.

So the two sisters saw her plight and gave her a very small room in which to live above the little house and she proceeded to make them simple meals and clean for them for fourteen years! They even taught her to cook a simple fish soup early on and I distinctly remember the line, "and this is what we call, cooking." The word cooking was said very slowly and deliberately, putting a strong emphasis on the two syllables in the word cooking. This becomes important later on.

The townspeople try to assemble together often and sing hymns and remember the teachings of the Pastor. As time went by, however, their quarrels grew and they became increasingly disgruntled. All the while, what would have been the 100th birthday of their father was approaching. That coming mid-November would have been his 100th birthday and they proposed a celebration for him, in order to remember him as if he was almost there with them all.

Meanwhile, Babette got a letter from France and it was a big surprise that she had won a lottery there! She had a friend that put her name into the lottery once a year, and this year Babette won and it was a lot of money! The sisters were happy for her but also so sad for they knew they were going to lose their beloved and helpful Babette! They had never had so much money as after Babette came, and they had never been so able to serve others in the community as when Babette was there. Filippe and Martine were sure she would be leaving them with this large sum of money.

Small Denmark Fishing Village

This photo also reminds me of the movie in parts.
This photo also reminds me of the movie in parts. | Source

The Lottery Ticket and The Rest of the Story

Babette decided to be a part of the celebration of the Pastor's 100th birthday with the two sisters and their small congregation. The sisters wouldn't hear of it, and when Babette insisted on it with her own money, they still insisted on not doing it. Eventually, Babette won them over to her idea and there are many surprises in store. There is indeed a meal of a lifetime that I don't want to describe and ruin for anyone. The guests made the story go into more of a curious direction than I had anticipated. From the young man that helped prepare and serve to the driver that stayed in the kitchen the whole time, I thoroughly enjoyed the all the characters in the movie.

There were a few times toward the end that I remembered the part about when the sisters were trying to teach Babette to cook and tried to teach her the word by saying it very slow and deliberate. It really made me smile to recall that, all things considered. This movie also brought many a tear to my eye.

There were many inspirational things in this movie. Among the most inspirational was the underlying messages this movie portrayed. There are themes of hope, forgiveness, loyalty, celebration, redemption, remembering and sacrifice. There are so many other things as well, but these are the ones that stand out the most at the moment.

Since seeing Babette's Feast, I have mentioned it at work at lunch one day and another person chimed in that it was a great movie, well received back when it first came out. That person seemed to love it just as much as I. I can highly recommend it and hope many people will see that film.

© 2018 Paula


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