Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Babette’s Feast

Babette prepares the feast.
Set in the mid 1800’s the Danish film Babette’s Feast (1987) is an adult fairytale, a whimsical story about a pair of pious Christian sisters living on the flat windswept peninsular of western Jutland. Life long celibates, Martine and Philippa, are still carrying out the work of their late father amongst the aging congregation. One day Babette Hersant arrives at their door with a letter from an ex-suitor of Philippa’s explaining that she is a refugee from a bloody uprising in Paris and wishes to become an unpaid housekeeper for the sisters. Babette’s only link with her former life is a lottery ticket that a friend renews each year. After working for the two sisters for some fourteen years Babette suddenly wins 10,000 francs from her lottery ticket. It is assumed she will now return to live in Paris, but instead she rewards the sister’s kindness by spending all her money on a real French memorial dinner to celebrate the late Ministers 100th birthday. Not only are the dwindling religious community invited but Martine’s former suitor and his aging Aunt are also encourage to attend. The magnificent feast is across between Holy Communion and the Last Supper!

The screenplay by director Gabriel Axel is based on a story by Isak Dinesen (pen name for the Baroness Karen Blixen) who also wrote the story that inspired Out of Africa (1985). The part of Babette Hersant was originally offered to Catherine Deneuve, but it was another French actress Stephane Audran who finally accepted the part. Very Bergmanesque with its grey landscapes and deliberately slow pacing, it deservedly was the first Danish film to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

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