7.8/10
15,143
106 user 77 critic

Babette's Feast (1987)

Babettes gæstebud (original title)
During the late 19th century, a strict religious community in a Danish village takes in a French refugee from the Franco-Prussian War as a servant to the late pastor's daughters.

Director:

Writers:

(short story), (screenplay)
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 10 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Babette Hersant (as Stephane Audran)
Bodil Kjer ...
Birgitte Federspiel ...
...
...
Achille Papin (as Jean Philippe Lafont)
...
Svensk hofdame
...
Asta Esper Hagen Andersen ...
Anna (as Asta Esper Andersen)
Thomas Antoni ...
Svensk løjtnant
Gert Bastian ...
Fattig mand
Viggo Bentzon ...
Fisker i robåd
...
Therese Højgaard Christensen ...
Martha
Pouel Kern ...
Cay Kristiansen ...
Poul
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Storyline

In a remote 19th-century Danish village, two sisters lead a rigid life centered around their father, the local minister, and their church. Both had opportunities to leave the village: one could have married a young army officer and the other, a French opera singer. Their father objected in each case, and they spent their lives caring for him. Many years later - their father is now deceased - they take in French refugee, Babette Hersant, who agrees to work as their servant. After winning the lottery, Babette wants to repay the sisters for their kindness and offers to cook a French meal for them and their friends on the 100th anniversary of their father's birth. It proves to be an eye-opening experience for everyone. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Music

Certificate:

G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

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Release Date:

4 March 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Babette's Feast  »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$4,398,938
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Many of the older actors were veterans of the films of Carl Theodor Dreyer. See more »

Goofs

In the church where characters go, behind the pastor appears a crucifix on the wall. There are no images in Protestant temples. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
[in Danish, using English subtitles]
Narrator: In this remote spot there once lived two sisters who were both past the first flush of youth. They had been christened Martina and Philippa after Martin Luther and his friend Philipp Melanchton. They spent all their time and almost all their small income on good works.
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Connections

Referenced in Cine Terapia: Cine Terapia - Juan Carlos Maneglia (2017) See more »

Soundtracks

Were Nur Den Lieben Gott
(uncredited)
Written by Georg Neumark, Danish lyrics by unknown author
Sung after the meal
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A bittersweet, redemptive northern masterpiece
6 December 2000 | by See all my reviews

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon.)

Take the style of Ingmar Bergman, stir in some Lutheranism, add a dash of Guy De Maupassant, a pinch of Chekov (such a severe and forbidding brew!). Mix well with the grand cuisine of nineteenth century France and what do you have? Babette's Feast!

Our story (from an Isak Dinesen short story) is of two lovely maiden sisters from Jutland, the pious daughters of a stern and dictatorial minister, who spurn their chance for love to remained devoted to their austere Protestant creed and to their puritanical and selfish father. We are subjected to the bleak, harsh winters, to the endless hours of knitting, to the long silences and the sighs upon sighs... Ah, the Danes, the Norwegians, the Swedes, how beautifully they brood! We see the barren beauty of Martina, who so enchanted the young cavalryman that when he could not melt her cold, cold heart, he instead vowed to be a success, and succeeded! And then there came the baritone from the Paris opera who heard her sister Phillipa's soprano voice at choir and fell immediately and hopeless in love with her, and sought to train her voice and carry her away. But no, he too could not melt the snows of her near Arctic heart, and so returned to Paris where he played out his (now) empty career.

Flash forward to the entrance of Babette, whom the opera singer sends many years later to the sisters to hide from the strife in France. She will be an angel of gastronomy, household management and common sense who will mend their souls and fill them with joy.

This is a tale of unrequited love. Of love that festers and longs and does not die. How I adore the love stories where the love is never consummated! I love the years of yearning, the melancholy realization that it could never work, and yet, and yet... And then when they are old and past any pretense, how wonderful it is to know that the anticipation, the savoring, the longing, the utter lack of finality, how wonderful THAT was, and how superior to a banal consummation!

But then, such is not the usual taste. Speaking of tastes, this is not a movie to see on an empty stomach. The climatic feast of turtle soup, quail in pastry, rich sauces, dessert, fromage, fruit, etc., washed down with amontillado, champagne, etc. will wet your appetite. A little stunning for this modest epicure was the Clos de Vougeot, 1845 that the general so admired. Can you imagine how beautiful that wine was, and what it would fetch today!

This is also a tale of Christian piety, and a joining of the Protestant and the Catholic, of how a Lutheran might learn from a Papist, of how the temperate zone might warm the north. How food really is a sacrament.

Anyway, we know from the moment Babette comes to the austere, but grand old pious ladies to cook for them that she is something special. When the ladies show her how to precisely prepare the mundane Danish meals of bread soup and soaked, smoked flounder, we know immediately that she is a great cook; after all she is Parisian, and an opera star has signified her as such. But she modestly says not a word and learns the Danish names and follows faithfully the Danish recipes, as though she were an ingenue. She works for nothing, having lost her family to the bloodshed in France, and what has she to live for but to do what she has to do and do it right. And does she ever!

Babette's Feast is as heart-warming as a Disney tale would love to be. It is as uplifting as a stirring Sousa march, and as satisfying as a seven-course meal at the Grand Hotel in Paris, France. It starts like a novel from the nineteenth century, slow and studied, and before you know it, has captured your fancy. Director Gabriel Axel unfolds the story with precision and a careful attention to detail, but ultimately with an invisible simplicity and economy. What he is saying in the end, is what he has the general pronounce after the sensuous meal (which is quite a moral extravagance, perhaps even a sinfulness for the pious flock): "Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another."

Someday, one hopes in this world, they shall.


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