Babette's Feast  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Babette's Feast (Babettes gæstebud) is a 1987 Danish film directed by Gabriel Axel. The film's screenplay was written by Axel based on the story by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen). Babette's Feast was the first Danish cinema film of a Blixen story. It was also the first Danish film to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Plot

The elderly and pious Christian sisters Martine (Birgitte Federspiel) and Philippa (Bodil Kjer) live in a small village on the remote western coast of Jutland in 19th-century Denmark. Their father was a pastor who founded his own Christian sect. With their father now dead, and the austere sect drawing no new converts, the aging sisters preside over a dwindling congregation of white-haired believers.

The story flashes back 49 years, showing the sisters in their youth. The beautiful girls have many suitors, but their father rejects them all, and indeed derides marriage.

Each daughter is courted by an impassioned suitor visiting Jutland – Martine by a charming young Swedish cavalry officer, Lorens Löwenhielm, sent to stay with his aunt in Jutland for the summer to correct bad behavior. Philippa is pursued by a star baritone, Achille Papin, from the Paris opera, on hiatus to the silence of the coast.

Thirty five years later, Babette Hersant (Stéphane Audran) appears at their door. She carries only a letter from Philippa's former suitor, the singer Achille Papin, explaining that she is a refugee from counter-revolutionary bloodshed in Paris, and recommending her as a housekeeper. The sisters take Babette in, and as their cook for the next 14 years, she serves as a modest but benign figure who gradually eases their lives and the lives of many in the remote village. Her only link to her former life is a lottery ticket that a friend in Paris renews for her every year. One day, she wins the lottery of 10,000 francs. Instead of using the money to return to Paris and her lost lifestyle, she decides to spend it preparing a delicious dinner for the sisters and their small congregation on the occasion of the founding pastor's hundredth birthday. More than just a feast, the meal is an outpouring of Babette's appreciation, an act of self-sacrifice; Babette tells no one that she is spending her entire winnings on the meal.

The sisters accept both Babette's meal and her offer to pay for the creation of a "real French dinner". Babette arranges for her nephew, a merchant, to go to Paris and gather the supplies for the feast. The ingredients are plentiful, sumptuous and exotic, and their arrival causes much discussion among the villagers. As the various never-before-seen ingredients arrive, and preparations commence, the sisters begin to worry that the meal will become a sin of sensual luxury, if not some form of devilry. In a hasty conference, the sisters and the congregation agree to eat the meal, but to forego speaking of any pleasure in it, and to make no mention of the food during the dinner.

The final part of the film is the preparation and the serving of Babette's banquet, lavishly deployed in the unadorned austerity of the sisters' rustic home. The film, previously showing mainly whites and grays, gradually picks up more and more colors, focusing on the various and delectable dishes.

Martine's former suitor, Lorens, now a famous general married to a member of the Queen's court, reappears as one of the guests with his aunt, the local lady of the manor and a member of the old pastor's congregation. He is unaware of the other guests' austere plans, and as a man of the world and former Attaché in Paris, he is the only person at the table qualified to comment on the meal. He regales the guests with abundant information about the extraordinary food and drink, comparing it to a meal he enjoyed years earlier at the famous "Café Anglais" in Paris.

Although the other celebrants refuse to comment on the earthly pleasures of their meal, Babette's gifts breaks down their distrust and superstitions, elevating them physically and spiritually. Old wrongs are forgotten, ancient loves are rekindled, and a mystical redemption of the human spirit settles over the table.

The sisters assume that Babette will now return to Paris, and when she tells them that all of her money is gone and that she is not going anywhere, the sisters are aghast. Babette then reveals that she was formerly the head chef of the Café Anglais, and tells them that dinner for 12 there has a price of 10,000 francs. Martine tearfully says, "Now you will be poor the rest of your life", to which Babette replies, "An artist is never poor."

See also




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