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353 of 360 found the following review helpful:
5-Star Meal, 5-Star Cinema Nov 18, 2001
By Jane Guerrero
The feast of the title doesn't take place until well into the film. In fact, the majority of the film is spent telling the story of 2 godly sisters and the choices they made in life. Both sisters passed up true love and the promise of success in order to remain faithful to their religious beliefs. Instead they pass their lives assisting their minister father and carry on his work after his death. They continue their quiet lives past mid-life until one of the sisters' former suitors sends them a Parisian refugee, Babette. Babette spends 14 years with the sisters as cook, her only link to her former life being a lottery ticket that a friend in Paris renews for her every year. One day she wins the lottery and decides to use the money to prepare a sumptous dinner for the sisters and their small congregation. More than just an epicurean delight the feast is an outpouring of Babette's gratitude.
If the plot sounds thin, be assured it's anything but. The story is as rich and satisfying as the feast Babette prepares. We see the delicate romances that develop for each sister and understand their reasons for turning their suitors away. We see the lives the sisters, and their men, have led after making their decision. The feast comes at a time when the sisters are asking themselves questions that they never voice: Did they make the right decision all those years ago? Was it worth it? Reassurance comes in an unexpected and exquisitely romanitc way.
This film is such a wonderful example of what happens when filmmakers are interested in telling a good story and telling it well. It doesn't follow a 'formula' or cater to a demographic and is a perfect example of why independent and foreign films are so much more satisfying than Hollywood movies.
113 of 113 found the following review helpful:
AN EXQUISITE MOVIE THAT GREATLY BENEFITS FROM DVD! Feb 01, 2001
By Claude Bouchard
I don't think I can add any more information about the wonderful story itself in light of all the superlative reviews found here. If you've seen it, you know it's a classic that is definitely worth owning, to be viewed and enjoyed repeatedly. If you've never seen Babette's Feast, you owe it to yourself to see it and find out what people mean when they say they experience a film. Yes, it's that good and that powerful. And the best part of it all: no guns, no explosions, no sex, no vulgarity.
The DVD is, without a doubt, THE format for this movie. The print has been considerably cleaned up and brightened. What a difference with my "old" fuzzy VHS copy! The widescreen format benefits this film tremendously. The sound is crisp and even, with no sudden drops or surges in volume. The DVD offers three language tracks: the original Danish/French, English, and Spanish. I personally recommend that you keep the Danish/French track with English subtitles. It's the only real way to convey the full meaning and emotions of the story. Avoid the English track at all costs: it's unbelievably bland and emotionless (thereby removing any and all subtleties and charm from this superb story) and it's muffled. I did not check out the Spanish track.
Worth much more than "just" 5 stars!
239 of 252 found the following review helpful:
But this really *is* Caille en Sarcophage! Jul 03, 2002
By Sammy Jo
For years I had heard that this was a good movie, but I resisted seeing it. How could a Danish movie about a dinner be all that compelling? I finally broke down and rented it - and watched it, stunned. This is truly a great film.
The story is simple. Two pious Danish sisters hire a French maid, Babette, out of a sense of charity. Fourteen years later, Babette wins the lottery. Out of her winnings, she proposes to serve the sisters and their fellow religionists a meal.
The film is simple. And like all things that are truly simple, it is a very, very rich feast.
The film can be enjoyed on many levels, but it is an overtly Christian film; and the feast is the Lord's Supper. Babette's gift to the sisters and their community is the gift of grace. Unasked for, unearned, and of inestimable value.
The sisters were daughters of a stern Protestant who had formed a devout community. When the sisters were young and beautiful, they were each tempted by the chance to have great love and success outside their community. But they remained loyal to their father and their faith. After their father died, they carried on with their faith community. But as the years passed by, bickering and dissension set in.
One rainy day, there is a knock on the door and Babette appears in their doorway. She has a letter of introduction from one of the sister's old love, and they decide to take her in. Babette quietly makes herself indispensable to the sisters and the entire village. One day, she wins the lottery, and the sisters assume that she will now leave them. Before leaving them, however, she insists on serving them a proper French meal.
The meal itself is the center of the film, and during that meal all the threads of the film are richly woven together. The pious sisters and their community finally learn the true depths of faith - something which is more than just what we believe, but rather also reflects what we do and the love with which we do it. They are twelve to supper, and that number is no accident. Nor is the grace that flows through that meal. Any Christian can appreciate its significance. And anyone who loves the Eucharist can only smile in joy, when one of the guests identifies the main dish as "Caille en Sarcophage" (Quail in a sarcophagus.) He retails a story of the time he ate this extraordinary meal in a fine Parisian restaurant. The other guests smile, but miss his drift. And he exclaims, "But this really *is* Caille en Sarcophage!" They still do not understand, but the meal works its magic nonetheless.
This is a film of the sacramental vision - God's rich love reaching out to us body and soul.
32 of 32 found the following review helpful:
Bursting with religious symbolism and metaphor Feb 02, 2006
"Babette's Feast" is one of my favorite films. I haven't read all the reviews that have been posted so I don't know if anyone has mentioned it already, but this film is bursting with Christian symbolism and metaphor, particularly of the Eucharist.
I am not referring to the pious sisters and their fellow congregants; I am referring to the arrival, service, and sacrifice of Babette, who can be seen as a Christ-figure. She comes as an exile to a lowly place and spends her life in uncomplaining service to the two sisters. Then she sacrifices everything she has to create a feast which transforms its (undeserving) partakers into people able to leave pettiness behind and "have life more abundantly." And she begrudges none of it.
I am not especially religious, but these things always come to mind when I watch this film. It is a pure delight, with a transforming message.
23 of 23 found the following review helpful:
Food for body and soul Mar 12, 2002
By Gary F. Taylor
Flawlessly directed, written, performed, and filmed, this quiet and unpretentious Danish film is an example of cinema at its best, and if a person exists who can watch BABETTE'S FEAST without being touched at a very fundamental level, they are a person I do not care to know.
The story is quite simple. In the 1800s, two elderly maiden ladies (Birgitte Federspiel and Bodil Kjer) reside in remote Jutland, where they have sacrificed their lives, romantic possibilities, and personal happiness in order to continue their long-dead father's religious ministry to the small flock he served. One of the women's youthful admirers sends to them a Frenchwoman, Babette (Stéphane Audran), whose husband and son have been killed in France and who has fled her homeland lest she meet the same fate. Although they do not really require her services, the sisters engage her as maid and cook--and as the years pass her cleverness and tireless efforts on their behalf enables the aging congregation to remain together and the sisters to live in more comfort than they had imagined; indeed, the entire village admires and depends upon her. One day, however, Babette receives a letter: she has won a lottery and is now, by village standards, a wealthy woman. Knowing that her new wealth will mean her return to France, the sisters grant her wish that she be allowed to prepare a truly French meal for them and the members of their tiny congregation.
The meal and the evening it is served is indeed a night to remember--but not for reasons that might be expected, for Babette's feast proves to be food for both body and soul, and is ultimately her gift of love to the women who took her in and the villagers who have been so kind to her. The film is extraordinary in every way, meticulous in detail yet not overpowering in its presentation of them. As the film progresses, we come to love the characters in both their simple devotion to God and their all-too-human frailties, and the scenes in which Babette prepares her feast and in which the meal is consumed are powerful, beautiful, and incredibly memorable. There have been several films that have used food as a metaphor for love, including WATER FOR CHOCOLATE and CHOCOLATE, but none approach the simple artistry and beauty of BABETTE'S FEAST, which reminds us of all the good things about humanity and which proves food for both body and soul. Highly, highly recommended.
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