Reviewed by: Brian Nigro
A memorable church hymn and Psalm asks the Lord to “make me an instrument of your peace.” A stunning illustration of this psalm is “Babette's Feast”, a wonderful Danish film that is ultimately about overcoming anti-religious prejudice with simple acts of kindness. An Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language film in 1987, it is without a doubt one of the finest foreign films ever made.
As directed by Gabriel Axel in the style of Bergman and Dreyer, it feels like a somber, more serious episode of “Touched By An Angel”. Here, the “angel” is Babette (Stephane Audran), a cook from Paris who arrives in a small Danish village to work for Martina (Brigitte Federspiel) and Philippa (Bodil Kjer), two twin daughters of a preacher. Babette was actually sent by an opera singer from Philippa’s past—the first half-hour is a well-crafted piece of storytelling, told in flashback, that sets up the plot clearly and coherently.
Food. How can I forget to mention the food? Yes, as the title indicates, Babette prepares a feast for Martina and Philippa and some villagers. I won’t spoil this part of the plot, but oh, what a feast it is. I’m reminded of another, more recent movie about food—Mexico’s “Like Water For Chocolate”—but, the comparisons end there. There’s a memorable scene in “Babette’s Feast” that drives home its point about spiritual nourishment as well as material nourishment.
“Babette’s Feast” is rated “G” and suitable for Christian audiences. The videotape is in Swedish dialogue with white subtitles (the original format should be available overseas). There is absolutely no profanity, no violence, and—good news for parents—nothing inappropriate for children. Highly, highly recommended.