Babette’s Feast

Babette’s Feast is a tantalising treasure full of quiet and beguiling charm. In 19th-century Denmark, a puritanical community clings to the Jutland coast, rejecting all worldly pleasures and sensual delights. Two elderly sisters lead this stringent sect – decades ago, they each rejected the excitements of the outside world for a life of austere devotion.

When a talented French chef arrives in the village as a refugee, the sisters take her in as their housekeeper and cook. Babette adjusts to the severe tastes of her new home but does not forget the delights and confections of her former life in Paris. 

After a sudden change in fortune, Babette decides to lay on an extravagant banquet for the local villagers. Her mouthwatering efforts deliver a delightful and transformative experience. Stéphane Audran is subtle and captivating as Babette, bringing a strong sense of dignity to the title role (which was originally offered to Catherine Deneuve).

 

 

Gabriel Axel adapted the film from a short story by Karen Blixen, which was originally set in the Norwegian town of Berlevåg. After visiting Berlevåg, Axel decided it was too picturesque to convey Babette’s isolation, and decided to shoot the film on the flat and forbidding Jutland coast instead. 

 

 

 

As the narrative moves towards its climax, Babette begins to embody the self-sacrifice, humility and gratitude of her pious hosts more and more. Through her skill and generosity, she finally stands – as Derek Malcolm wrote of the film in the Guardian – as a reminder of “the value of artistry and the true meaning of pleasure”.

 

 

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