In the 1800’s, sisters Filippa (played by Bodil Kjer) and Martine (by Birgitte Federspiel) live with their father, a devout fundamentalist Minister, in Jutland on the remote windswept coast of Denmark. His congregation is devoted, but small and the sisters spend their days in quiet worship and work to support the tiny community. The sisters are beautiful, but are naive to the ways of the world so when potential admirers attend them and offer them a life away from the village, the men are always rejected, in favour of the sisters’ familiar, basic life with their father. After several years, a stranger arrives at their door, she is Babette (by Stéphane Audran), she carries an introductory letter from a long ago French acquaintance of the sisters. They agree to give Babette simple shelter and she becomes housekeeper for the sisters. Years later, the sisters wish to mark the 100th anniversary of their father’s birth and Babette offers to cook a feast for the small group’s celebration. Although, quite suspicious of French cuisine, the villagers agree to Babette’s suggestion, but make a pact to endure the highly dreaded dinner, but only to be polite. Babette prepares a feast that the tiny community are not expecting and they will never be the same again …..
At first, the pace of this movie is excruciatingly slow, but just at the point where I thought I couldn’t stand it any longer, it started to become quite delightful and I was pleased I had kept watching it. The cinematography and overall production is without adornment, much the same as the bleak austere life of the sisters and this community. The drama is presented in a way that the viewer can see and understand the life of the sisters and the dynamics of the small group of worshippers. The story is always watchable and quite pleasant with snippets of comedy, which keeps it good. Then, once Babette has the opportunity to create her “feast”, the movie takes a different tack – the production becomes entertaining and quite lush. The preparation, sumptuous cooking and joy in the eating of the marvellous menu she creates is palpable and very enjoyable. It’s very well made. The movie is a dramatisation of the novel “Babettes gæstebud” by Karen Blixen with the screenplay by director Gabriel Axel. It is no surprise that in 1988 the movie won the Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Foreign Language Film and in 1989 it won a BAFTA Film Award for Best Film not in the English Language. It develops into a really great movie.
Made in 1987. Directed by Gabriel Axel