Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Life Changing Message of Babette

One of my favorite film characters is Babette Hertsard (played by Stéphane Audran) in the Danish film Babette's Feast (won Academy Award for best foriegn language film 1988).

In the story Babette is a political refuge from Paris who escapes to Denmark were she is given board with a pair of elderly women who are part of a very austere Christian sect. Babette is an excellent chef by trade, but this is a secret to her boarders who teach her to cook bland, simple, and affordable meals that mirror their lifestyle. Yet when a unique opportunity arises Babette is given the opportunity to make these women and the small community they live in a meal of a lifetime.

Yet this fantasticly rich, expensive, and fine meal creates a challenge within the hearts and minds of the community. As they have denied themselves almost every worldly pleasure in accordance with their religious beliefs they struggle to know how to be gracious in the midst of their personal conflict.

The little fable that unwinds in this film is beautiful and has it's own subtle influences on my life. I remember the first time I saw this film, it unlocked a sensation with me that connected to the plight of Babette. I want to be like Babette in a way that I could help people see goodness, beauty, and God through beautiful things. There is a place for denial of desires, and the shunning of sin. Yet there must be ways that we can direct people towards God through beauty, and not just herd people to him by blocking off everything else.

This post is part of Emma's "performances that changed your life" series at All About My Movies. It just happens to be I have recently been talking about the fictional French chef Remy and posting French recipes. Who knows, maybe I just like movies about food?

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14 comments:

Mercurie said...

I love Babette's Feast and I think Babette is one of the most fascinating characters in cinema. Of course, I am a big fan of direcor Gabriel Axel to begin with. A movie I would highly recommend is Amled, prinsen af Jylland, called Royal Deceit in America. It's Axel's adaptation of the Danish legend that gave rise to Shakespeare's Hamlet (which it only resembles a little--let's say the Bard took a good deal of artistic licence.

Phillip said...

The first time I saw Axel's film, I didn't think much of it.

But, as with all truly great pieces of cinema, with more thought and more viewings it has gradually revealed itself to me and become a film that I deeply treasure.

"...there must be ways that we can direct people towards God through beauty, and not just herd people to him by blocking off everything else."

What a great thought ... and very well-put. I know so many people like the ones that inhabit Babette's village. We're actually having some over for dinner tomorrow night. I try to speak sense into them every time and keep praying that it will work eventually...

mae said...

Who knows, maybe you just like food???

Adam said...

Frickin' Babette's Feast. I'll never forget when you got a whole group of people together to watch it. It was so tragic because here was Ryan bearing his soul for everyone. Before it began he declared this was one of his favorite movies ever. We watched it in complete silence and then no one really had anything to say but, "Wow that was boring." As great as that watching party was it will never touch the time that you and I badmouthed Sweet Home Alabama on a TCU snow day. I know Reese Witherspoon's performance changed my life that day :)

Darrell said...

Yet there must be ways that we can direct people towards God through beauty, and not just herd people to him by blocking off everything else.

I really like that idea. I've never had a chance to see this movie, but I've looked for it.

Adam: We watched it in complete silence and then no one really had anything to say but, "Wow that was boring.

Is there anything worse than that? My favorite movie of all time is Unforgiven, the most honest and moving story I've ever encountered about the nature of sin. I can't count the times I've tried to share that movie with people ... a movie that I consider life-changing ... only to have them respond "Eeh. It's OK."

the teach said...

strange, just thought you might like to know that Babette's Feast is based on a short story by Isak Dinesen which is a pseudonym for Karen Blixen of "Out of Africa" fame.

cinefille said...

This is one of those many movies that I have been meaning to see for the longest time. And it was just bumped up on my netflix queue. :)

Will said...

RC, thanks for the post. You and I must be cut from the same cloth. I had the same violently wonderful reaction to Babette and wanted to share beauty with others. And still do.

I had an unfortunate soul-baring, sharing incident with The Remains of the Day. Everyone thought it was boring. Oh well.

By the way, just saw Ratatouille this afternoon and I'm relishing the opportunity to write a review on it. Thanks for your review that helped to tip me into seeing it. Jubilantly glorious.

Adam said...

Darrell: I know, I did feel a little sorry for Ryan that night. We all knew it was one of his most favorite movies, but first impressions are hard to overcome. One definatly has to be in the mood to watch and read this movie.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I adore Babette's Feast. Such a great little movie.

And one of the main reasons I continue to waver on a religious outlook is because I just can't fathom how anybody could think that with all the beautiful things in this world that many religions believe violence is the way to God.

Lorna said...

If it turns out that you're just shallow and food-loving, watch The Big Night. Ostensibly about food, but layered and lovely and Tony Shaloubish

Paula said...

Babette's Feast is one of a few movies that has affected my heart so deeply that I forevermore may only watch them alone. I am afraid I might at worst murder someone, at best hate them forever, if they didn't appreciate the luminous truths to be found from watching a movie slowly.

OK, I probably wouldn't murder the person...but I'd never be able to respect them again. LOL!!!

Mae said...

I remember watching Babette's Feast with you R, and don't remember it as being boring, especially since that was the summer that you watched, what was it? Every Academy award winner from 500BC to present...
M

red shoes on a thuuursday said...

one of my favorite films with one of my favorite actresses. stéphane audran is magnificent.

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