Babette's Feast

Gabriel Axel, Denmark 1987, 102 minutes

Based on Isak Dinesen's novel, this is a literary adaptation thatmakes the transition to screen with grace and dignity, matching every word of the book with a moment, an image or a sound.

The story is a simple one, uncomplicated and unfussed. Babette has worked for her sisters all her life. When she wins the lottery, she decides to celebrate by throwing a huge dinner party for all the entire village. Starting from that simple premise the story of Babette, her employers, and the residents of the village are told. We are shown the attitudes, peculiarities and ways of the village folk as they all prepare for Babette's Feast.

Babette was a French chef of the highest calibre, exiled to the Scandinavian coast after the French uprising of 1871. In exile, she proceeded to look after two elderly spinsters. The community revolves around the strict, puritan religious sect (whose members are no longer seeing eye to eye) and the sea, whose violent, dark force casts its shadow over all their lives. For a community used to pickled herring, a 10000 franc gastronomic event to end all gastronomic events comes as a shock. This is where the film really scores. Sumptuous to the eye, it is one of those films that makes you wish for taste-o-rama technology. The portrayal of Babette's preparations for the event and the care she takes in creating the feast, are as gloriously studied as the consumption of the food itself. I wish I was sitting at that table now.

Review by Scott M Keir
Taken from EUFS Programme 1997-98