Moving Pictures™ – A Review of Babette’s Feast

By Terri Catlin

I know it’s not in vogue to use or even like narration in a film, but I must confess that I love it. I have always loved it. I love the way a good narration cradles you in a warm and assured vocal embrace, guiding you into a strange new world within the cocoon of a dark theatre or your own living room. This is how we are lulled into the wonderfully foreign setting of a remote 19th century Danish village, in the 1988 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, Babette’s Feast.

This is the story of two pious, young sisters who live lives to which most of us can’t relate – lives given to feeding only the spiritual appetite. Known for their great beauty, they are desired by many young men, but they are devoted to their father and his ministry. For years after their father’s passing, they carry on his work, caring for the old and infirm and trying to provide a spiritual compass for his aging flock. One day, a woman appears in their tiny village, seeking shelter and work. The sisters live meagerly and can’t afford to pay her, but they give her a home and a place to find purpose at a time when she has lost everything. After many years, the woman (Babette) has an unexpected change in fortune and must decide what is next for her.

Despite what are unfamiliar circumstances for most of us, the story delves into deep, complex, and eternal questions that we all face. Questions about how we choose to live life. We all must deal with crossroads, and the choices we make determine whether we will have satisfying memories or bitter regrets. How do we make those choices? Based on what feels good or what is expected of us? On what will feed our immediate desires or nourish our long-term goals? What is so poignant about Babette’s choice is that it is based in her commitment to be true to her deepest self, providing an incredible act of generosity. And isn’t that what we all want? To express who we are and to contribute something?

In an age where fame and “success” are goals in and of themselves, and where public scrutiny is so scathing and ubiquitous, it is refreshingly old-fashioned to tell a tale that has us think about what we truly value in the quiet solitude of our hearts, with no agenda, no expectation, and no concern for what others will say. Wanting only, as Babette says, “…the chance to do my very best.”

Babette’s Feast is just that – an incredible, elaborate, and luxurious meal sure to satisfy the most hard-to-impress foodies. And it is more than that. It is nourishing food for thought. A gourmet meal for the mind, to savour and linger over. And that is unfashionably rare.

Michelle Leduc head shotTerri Catlin is an award-winning actor and director, as well as a freelance writer. She is currently at work on her first book.                                                                 

Babette’s Feast is available on DVD and can be rented on Amazon.

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