In the beginning of the film, the narrator tells the audience a story about two adult sisters who live in a remote Danish village at the seaside. Both sisters were raised by a strict father who was a pastor of a small Protestant church. The two sisters were once in love, one, Martine, with an army officer, and the other, Philippa, with an opera singer and both had a chance to leave the village and start a new life with their beloved ones. However, both ended up alone, leaving lonely lives in the village of Jutland.
Thirty-five years later, in the middle of the night, a woman knocks on the sisters’ door. Her name is Babetta and she is a refugee from Paris whose husband and son were killed on the battlefield. She carried a letter from Phillipa’s beloved Achille Papin, which explained that she eloped from Paris and had no place to stay. Papin begged the sisters to take Babette in as a housekeeper. Since the sisters could not afford to pay Babette, she agreed to work for free.
Babette, a former head chief at a French restaurant, is forced to serve bland meals every day since the sisters know of no better food than oatmeal. One day, Babette wins 10000 francs in a lottery and instead of spending the money for her own needs and return back to Paris, she decides to spend it on preparing a delicious dinner for the sisters. She used the occasion of pastor’s hundredth birthday as an excuse to organize a true feast in order to thank the sisters for their kindness and show her appreciation. Babette tells no one that she spent all her savings for that feast.
The sisters notice how much money is being spent on the dinner and are afraid of committing a sin of sensual luxury. Together with the congregation they decide not to enjoy it and mention nothing about the quality of food. The only one who appreciated Babette’s cooking was Lorens, Martine’s beloved one, and mentioned that it reminded him of the dinner he once had at a famous French restaurant in Paris called Café Anglais. No one appreciates Babette’s cooking publicly, but everyone is encouraged and elevated by it. People’s attitude changes from distrust to respect and gratitude.
In the end of the film, all wrongs are forgotten, all loves reunited and people’s mood becomes cheerful and happy. The sisters thanked Babette for the dinner and promised to always remember her gift to them when she leaves for Paris. Babette explains them that she had spent all her money on food since 10000 francs is the exact price of a dinner at Café Anglais where she used to be a head chief. The sisters are upset about Babette having spent all her savings ad spending her whole life in poverty, but Babette replies that a true artist is never poor.
The scene of the dinner lasts approximately one third of the film. The sisters saw how much time and money was spent on the feast and what expensive ingredients Babette used for it. Therefore, they decided to prepare everyone for it and decided not to notice how delicious the food it and make no complements since everyone was afraid to commit a sin of sensual luxury. They explained everyone that it is in appropriate to talk about food or admire it. Everyone did their best not to pay attention to French delicatessen and talk only about the Gospel. But no one could resist the dishes which were served with such love and care. One by one, people started smiling, laughing, and remembering old jokes and stories. Babette’s talent touched their hearts as only sermon could.
Food in the movie “Babette’s Feast” is used to symbolize the joy the inhabitants of the village have forgotten of. They are so used to their plain, emotionless life, so full of every day quarrels and talks, daily prayers and plain food, that they have forgotten how to live and be happy about every bright moment in their lives. Babetta’s food managed to break the monotony and predictability of the commune and remind them of all those happy moments they shared.
At first, everyone in the village including the congregation have positive attitude towards Babetta but when they notice the food she was buying for the dinner, their attitude changes
completely. People are so preoccupied with their religious thoughts and prejudice that they start to dislike Babetta’s “squandering”. The feast shows how narrow-minded people can be sometimes and how much it takes to make them see the brighter side.
At first, people accepted Babette’s cooking with suspicion but later on they realize how much effort it took her to prepare the feast for them and how much love and dedication she put in it. In other words, Babette’s food melts their conservative Protestant hearts and adds warmth to their souls.
In my opinion, this film is one of the kindest and in the same time wisest films I have ever seen. It would be enjoyable for any audience (maybe, except for little kids), since it is both beautifully filmed and contains a deep meaning in all actions the characters do. I was touched by Babetta’s strength and in the same time willingness to give people happiness and stay thankful for what she has and what people do for her. She was a noble lady who happened to come in the middle of nowhere to the people she never met and even serve them. However, it never bothered her since after long months of fear and despair she finally found herself a home filled with love and peace. One could only admire this woman’s spirit.