Author Topic: Movie of the Week: Babette's Feast (1987)  (Read 10398 times)

verbALs

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Re: Movie of the Week: Babette's Feat (1987)
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2011, 05:29:51 AM »
I've been thinking about this idea that there it is "to a degree" a clash of Protestantism vs Catholicism, represented in the film. It seems that French and Catholic are being seen as interchangeable. Now the military man is not French, but he represents the same things as the music teacher and to some extent Babette. You could see it as puritanism vs hedonism OR the country vs the city OR the simple farming community vs the sophisticated high society. I don't have any problem with any of these, but linking Catholicism to hedonism is pushing it too far. Abstinence is just as much a factor in the Catholic church, Lent being one example.

The only real purpose for the music teacher being French was to connect Babette to the village and the sisters. I can't see any other reason other than plot device.
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Monty

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Re: Movie of the Week: Babette's Feat (1987)
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2011, 06:48:12 AM »
Babette's Feast
I am afraid the first half of the film failed to interest me nearly completely.
I was left unfulfilled and distanced when I should have felt at least charmed by its warmth. I liked the singing. However the score is Big Night 1 Babette's Feast 0.

I watched Babette's Feast about eighteen months ago and I must say It didn't really make any impression on me whatsoever, Sorry.


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Bondo

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Re: Movie of the Week: Babette's Feat (1987)
« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2011, 08:38:21 AM »
I don't have any problem with any of these, but linking Catholicism to hedonism is pushing it too far. Abstinence is just as much a factor in the Catholic church, Lent being one example.

I don't know, when the opera guy shows up the father quizzes him and finds out he is Catholic. It seems like it is stressing that as an important distinction. The General is Swedish (I somehow hadn't picked up on that during the film) and thus also likely Protestant, but they note he had grown up in Paris. To further the Catholicism aspect though, the Italians are also noted for their food and drink.

Oh, and I too can now have awkwardly written reviews based on the fact that they have a broader (blog) audience in mind.

Hey, what's that supposed to mean? "Awkardly"? Do you think that reviews that are posted on blogs as well are worse? If anything I think they're better. I like reviews that work on a standalone basis and that are written in such a way that you can enjoy reading them even if you haven't watched the movie. Like your one for Babette's for instance.

It was nothing about the reviews being worse. I was referring to the following line in my review and how it marks it clearly as being written for a different location.

This is the first selection for a Movie of the Week club starting up over at the Filmspotting forum.

verbALs

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Re: Movie of the Week: Babette's Feat (1987)
« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2011, 08:56:37 AM »
I think it is going to be fascinating seeing which details different reviewers pick up on, because I didn't hear either detail. Also, this emphasis on religious difference will probably come through in different reviews.
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Re: Movie of the Week: Babette's Feat (1987)
« Reply #14 on: October 30, 2011, 02:22:14 PM »
Babette's Feast

The power of food is fascinating to me. It's an art unlike any other. It defies the standard conventions of analysis because it speaks directly to that which we most need. We cannot live without food, and so it is food that can provide the most basic pleasures. To discover that food can be more than just a means of nutrition, more than just stale bread and ale, is to discover the very beauty in living.

But food does more than speak directly to the heart. It also brings people together. Allows them to speak to each other. Food opens people up to themselves and others. It's that magic that is captured so beautifully in Babette's Feast. We enter into a protestant world in which high emotions are tempered in the name of piety. By the end we see these people come together in the spirit of human connection, and food is the catalyst.

The film does a pretty masterful job of building that cold Norwegian world of repression. When I saw that ale-bread crap they eat all I could think was how much I'd rather die than live there. It's no wonder then that with their spiritual leader gone, the people of the village fall into a state of general malaise and animosity towards each other. Those brief moments of love in their youth have been whisked away and almost completely forgotten, save for the gift of Babette.

But Babette herself is confined in the small village. She has no home to go back to in Paris, and where she lives now is just a place for her to reside. When she wins the lottery she has a chance to go back to Paris. Instead she decides to prepare a meal. It's her last chance to express that bit of warmth and beauty and artistry laying dormant within her. To say I wish I could have been at that table is an understatement. So much heart and soul poured into providing a group of people with the joy of fine food.

And that's the real beauty in the art of cooking. It's not some etherial thing like music or painting or film. Good food is actually giving people something physical to warm them from the inside. The meal itself played almost like a beautiful comedy, with the people trying hard not to enjoy themselves, but slowly being overcome by the food and wine. The General, of course, helps this mood along, but I really loved the little things, like how the others were watching how the General ate and taking their cues from him. That kind of silent interaction which is so common at group meals is where the true connections happen.

By preparing an amazing meal, Babette manages to bring everybody together in a mood of happiness. And i mean everyone. The pastor's daughters, the General, the flock, the carriage driver, the boy serving the meal, and even herself. Her joy is found partly in the food, but mostly in the giving, that most holy of acts. I'm not a religious person, but if there's anything I can understand it's having a religious experience, and what I wouldn't give to enjoy the religious experience of Babette's feast that evening. It's the power of food and the power of art to truly reach people and change people. It's transcendent.



To comment on the puritanism vs. hedonism bit, I think there's something there. I don't know that the film is coming out pro-hedonism or pro-Catholicism, but it is definitely coming out in favour of living with joy. It seems to be saying that without a little extravagance and without the joy taking in such things as food and art and expression and communication and connection you might as well not live, even in the grace of God.
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Bondo

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Re: Movie of the Week: Babette's Feat (1987)
« Reply #15 on: October 30, 2011, 03:06:21 PM »
Hmm, I like that idea of combining the art and religion a bit. We get it early where the opera guy talks about her singing being able to make her that much more able to praise god or get closer to god in a sense by excelling. In a similar way, through Babette's cooking, she gets closer and brings other people closer to god potentially. So maybe rather than hedonism it is the idea that art/expression/excelling with god-given talents were being repressed in the name of god but were actually inhibiting their faith. I shall have to think further on this. Thanks Fro.

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Re: Movie of the Week: Babette's Feat (1987)
« Reply #16 on: October 30, 2011, 03:13:45 PM »
It's not just god-given gifts, it's about reaching transcendence. Art at its best can touch us in unexplainable ways. They connect with us on that deepest of level. A religious person might describe that feeling as being closer to God, and that theme runs right through the film. The people of the village think there are being properly devout by shunning personal pleasures, but in fact they are denying themselves a taste of the transcendent, and in effect denying God.
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Movie of the Week: Babette's Feat (1987)
« Reply #17 on: October 30, 2011, 04:58:13 PM »
I agree with Corey, but I would take it a bit farther, I don't think this film is simply dividing and comparing the divide between the conservative and liberal outlooks on life (give them whatever other labels you want), but also showing how in these cases, both sides are expressing the same ideas of unity and love, but in different ways.

A. O. Scott says it best in .

Also, I don't think the relationships fail simply because of the sister's more puritanical and reserved nature. I think that's far too easy. I think it's because the sisters have chosen a different path through life that doesn't involve the worldly ambitions of the men that court men. In that way, I think they define their selves in a strong way outside the context of romantic love that, in some ways, makes those relationships doomed.


And here, is my quite recent review reproduced for those interested in some more of my thoughts:


In its relatively short runtime, Babette’s Feast presents a vast array of love, spanning all types and varieties. There’s a father’s love for his daughters, a suitor’s love of a potential partner, a love of music, a love of religion and, of course, a love of good food. Babette’s Feast explores how all these avenues of expression, any of which have spawned countless films, are all inter-related expressions of this one human idea.

For two sisters, these strands of love form the story of their life. Filippa (Bodil Kjer) and Martine (Birgitte Federspiel) live in a small town in Denmark where their father presides over a Protestant church. The tales of the suitors of their youth, none of which ever lead to fruition, and their later years where they direct their love and devotion to the local poor. But after their years of servitude, an unexpected visitor, Babette (Stéphane Audran), arrives from France with an unusual proposition to serve the two women without pay.

The title of the film alludes to a feast that makes the last arc of this story. In actuality, the true feast is the deep draughts this film takes into the love that surrounds and defines these two women. The women are both loved and engaged in loving the community around them. Deeply connecter to their father and the ties of the Church, their outpouring of love is tied to their religious beliefs.

Therefore, the feast of Babette becomes problematic for these women later in the film when they misinterpret it as a brash pursuit of pleasure, a vice. What they fail to see is that Babette’s Feast is her own sort of religion, a way of expressing her devotion, love and passion to those around her, a different kind of service than the one the sisters have spent their lives pursuing.

And while the film shows a lush love of food, it also weaves in a fantastic love of music. The best scene of the movie is when suitor Achille Papin (Jean-Philippe Lafont) and one of the daughters perform a duet from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Besides being a lovely moment of music, the song itself is an expression of love that speaks to the situations and differences between the two and why, sadly, their different love of the same thing will inevitably keep them from loving one another.

For Papin, the love of music is something that must fully be achieved on the stage, shared with as many as possible. It’s his hope to take this small town daughter and make her a star. But her love of music is rooted in devotion and worship of God, and while the prospect of music is tempting, it distorts her personal reasons for sing.

These are only two examples of the great loves of the film. It glazes over the gracious care of the poor and the legacy of love of a father passes onto his children. It ignores the simple servitude of Babette that never imposes in or demands of the sisters she serves. It skirts around the entire subplot of a military man who displaces his love of a women to marry his career.

And while all these portraits of love in Babette’s Feast are worth reflection, its best experienced firsthand. This is just a taste of the beauty and magnificence of the displays of love Babette’s Feast offers. It’s a film that induces a spirit of love, showing how many of life’s squabbles and troubles melt away in the face of love and how displaced love can cause all sorts of problems.

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Re: Movie of the Week: Babette's Feat (1987)
« Reply #18 on: October 30, 2011, 05:23:55 PM »
I agree with Corey, but I would take it a bit farther, I don't think this film is simply dividing and comparing the divide between the conservative and liberal outlooks on life (give them whatever other labels you want), but also showing how in these cases, both sides are expressing the same ideas of unity and love, but in different ways.

Maybe it's because I'm an atheist, and thus I have my own opinion on the matter, but I just don't see the film as equivocating the two. This seems clearest in the attitudes of the others in the village; their resentments. Were the sisters caring for the poor out of love or a sense of religious obligation?

Antares

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Re: Movie of the Week: Babette's Feat (1987)
« Reply #19 on: October 30, 2011, 07:11:04 PM »
It also doesn't help that I'm not someone who finds pleasure in food

That's so sad.  :'(
Did you grow up in a house where there weren't too many sit down meals with the family?

Babette's Feast

The power of food is fascinating to me. It's an art unlike any other. It defies the standard conventions of analysis because it speaks directly to that which we most need. We cannot live without food, and so it is food that can provide the most basic pleasures. To discover that food can be more than just a means of nutrition, more than just stale bread and ale, is to discover the very beauty in living.

This is the most insightful thing you've ever written.

I just want to say that I'm a chef and have been cooking since I was nine years old, so for me, the cooking scenes are what make this film worthwhile.

I bought this on DVD a couple of years ago as a blind buy, and after the first 45 minutes, I thought I had made a serious mistake purchasing it. But when she wins the lottery and starts preparing the feast, I was hooked. I knew what was coming, because I've done the same thing for friends over the years. Food is not only life sustaining, it can sinful, it can be sensuous and most of all, it can be like a fine piece of art. It's the only thing in our lives that I can think of, that combines both the artistic and the scientific equally. You can't be a cook without understanding the scientific principles behind what you are preparing and you can't be a chef without artistic passion.

I have one lasting legacy that I share with my mémère, who along with my mother, instilled a love of cooking in me so long ago. My mémère would create these magnificent feasts a few times a year, but she would never come out of the kitchen while everyone was eating. Whenever I asked why she wasn't joining us, she always made some excuse about getting something else ready to serve. But as time went along, I realized that she took great joy in just listening to the family enjoying themselves eating her creations. And this is what Babette feels in the film. Believe me, if you've ever had the experience of creating a sumptuous feast for a group of friends, and then listen to them moaning in epicurean ecstasy, this film will hit you like a thunderbolt.

And this is why I wasn't surprised to read some of the reviews here. The only people I've ever met who liked this film, have culinary experience. For all of us, this film ranks up there with Big Night, Eat Drink Man Woman and for sheer guilty pleasure, Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe.
            
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