Monday, January 16, 2006

Babette's Feast

As suggested by the World Team Director, I watched the video "Babette's Feast" last night. I think Babette’s Feast is really a feast in itself, for the heart, the senses, and above all the spirit. Behind the film’s simple (which to some can be seen as boring) story is a sort of parable of religion and life. A voice-over narrator introduces us to a pair of aging sisters, daughters of a now-deceased Protestant minister, and their lives in this village in Denmark. These pious sisters lead quiet lives of touching service among their late father’s remaining followers, a handful of older residents of a tiny nineteenth-century coastal settlement that is at once almost a religious community and a sect unto itself.

In flashback we see the sisters in the flower of youth, living with their father. Even though both sisters had the opportunity to get married, Martina and Philippa lived like nuns, consecrated to religious life. They are called upon to deny marriage and family, to sacrifice lives of domestic joy and service for another joy and another service.

Into this community comes an unexpected person: Babette, who is a refugee from 1871 revolutionary violence in Paris. She begs the sisters to take her in as a maid / housekeeper / cook, and to be allowed to serve them, asking only room and board; and the kind-hearted sisters cannot turn her away in her need.

Martina and Philippa hardly think, of course, that they themselves or their community might be as needy as Babette herself, or that she might supply what they lack. After all, she is French, presumably Catholic. What can she have that they might need?

What indeed. The pious sisters live to serve; but they are wholly unacquainted with being served, which can be as humbling as, or more so than, service itself. Nor are they aware of all that she has to give. After many years of service, a day finally comes when Babette is in a position to show them. She wants to prepare a feast for the tiny community, on the occasion of the late minister’s 100th birthday. Martina and Philippa initially consent to Babette’s plans… but consent turns to alarm as they begin to grasp the scope of her plans.

Babette's feast is both a meal and also (in a way the sisters cannot guess) a sacrifice. Martina, Philippa and the others come to the table determined not to be inflenced by their senses, but the meal works subtly upon them in unexpected ways. Some reminisce about their absent master, making the feast a true memorial meal. But one guest who is unaware of Babette’s presence among the villagers perceives the meal, and the hand behind it, for what it is, just as the disciples on the Emmaus road came to recognize the Lord in the breaking of bread.

In the end, Babette’s Feast is a quiet celebration of the divine grace that meets us at every turn, and even redeems our ways not taken, our sacrifices and losses. Whatever we think has been given up or lost, God gives back in greater abundance, one way or another. It may not be till heaven that we truly become all that He intends; but His grace is here and now, whatever our circumstances, and with Him all things are possible. The film’s last word says it all.

Has anyone watched this film before? What do you think of it?

11 comments:

Jim said...

Yes, I just watched this movie recently. I heard about it a long time ago, but never bothered to see it. But it was something else - jaw-dropping.

It's strength is not so much in its messsage, because I think everyone would see something different in it. Some people would no doubt take things from it that I wouldn't agree with. But the movie's strength is that it's thought-provoking. It asks so many questions about grace, pleasure, sacrifice, religion, culture - no doubt you could discuss it for hours. It's an incredible story.

Kc said...

I found it to be an observation on many things and like Jim said I think you come away from it only having your perpective reinforced. I did enjoy it.

Kitty Cheng said...

jaw-dropping? How so? Can you unpack more Jim?

Kc, what have you observed through the movie? would love you know more on what you think personally?

Kc said...

As I recall the film seemed to highlight the interaction between our emotions and our beliefs. I am tempted to see it again so I could be more specific.

Kitty Cheng said...

Kc, I agree that the film highlights the interaction betweeen our emotions and our beliefs, and it was done really powerfully. But like you said, you can really come away from seeing the movie having your perspective reinforced.

Let me know more once you've seen it again hehe.

Kc said...

Will do. Kitty I wanted to give you a link to a site I thought you might enjoy. ;-)

Jim said...

Jaw-dropping - well, hmmmm. There were a number of things that were jaw-dropping. I don't want to spoil the story for anyone, although perhaps one of the most jaw-dropping things was watching everyone's reactions to the dinner when you knew what was coming. Hard to describe. Incredible.

Kitty Cheng said...

Thanks Kc...had a quick look at Ryan's site...yeah interesting! Thanks for recommending!

Kitty Cheng said...

Yes I agree it's an incredible movie.

Miss Eagle said...

Kitty, I posted on this movie just last month. You can see it at http://tradpad.blogspot.com/2005/12/memory-of-food.html. I saw it many years ago and it is a great favourite on mine. I was moved to post after seeing Out of Africa. See this post at http://tradpad.blogspot.com/2005/12/i-had-farm-in-africa.html then I moved on Babette. Blixen is a marvellous storyteller.

Kitty Cheng said...

wow just had a look at your post on Babette's Feast..fantastic!