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Restaurateur Babette flees Napolean’s France and takes refuge with a small Christian sect in Denmark. As a lowly cook to two spinster sisters, she serves up their tasteless daily fare (reconstituted hard tack and dried fish, anyone??) with gratitude and growing love. When a fortune is restored to her, she spends all on a sumptuous feast for the sisters and their non-worldly friends in the community that is slowly ebbing away as its childless members age.
Clinging to the strength of an aceticism befitting the icy environment, the friends gather for the feast in trepidation, resolved as one not to be carried away by Babette’s sensuous excesses. (They know she’s serving wine! They’ve seen the turtle-who-shall-be-soup!) Her devotion, expressed as giving with abandon, meets with their steely self-control and the viewer’s heart breaks for her.
Gradually, though, the wine and candlelight, the magnificence of the feast, and the enthusiasm of one non-sect visitor lift the hearts of the diners with an unaccustomed joy, to God. Babette may not see this, but she has experienced the feast with the joy of self-giving, and is content. Her love invests each course, each glass of wine, each tiny detail of service with sacramentality and beauty – quiet testaments to her Catholicism.
Beautiful! Highly recommended!
P.S. Babette’s Feast, the movie, is based on Isak Dinesen’s story by the same title. That story is in print with another, Sorrow’s Acre, I’d like to read…about a mother who ‘sows an acre of land in an attempt to save her son…..hauntingly beautiful’. Anyone want to read that one together??
I helped create a Feast of St. Joseph, and wrote about the beauty of that experience here.