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Babette's Feast


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#1 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 12:33 PM

Women's Pictures was insightful, I thought. I don't have the link, and the topic was posted on the now-dead board. Later on I'll post a few great sentences from my hard copy at home, and I think there's some good discussion awaiting.

#2 Christian

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Posted 05 July 2003 - 12:38 PM

Sorry I've been so delinquent in reposting the link to that article, Russell.

It can be found here: http://www.believerm...jim_shepard.htm

I don't know how to create hyperlinks on this board. I've just pasted in the link, then highlighted it and clicked the "URL" tag. It adds "" and " on either end of the Web address, but I don't think it will look right when I submit. If it looks funny, now you know why.

#3 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

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Posted 14 July 2003 - 10:25 AM

Wow. I just watched All That Heaven Allows this weekend for the first time and was really affected by it-- I was fairly weepy for a half hour afterwards. In short, it was a version of The Hours that moved me honestly. I'm intrigued by the ways Haynes borrowed from and departed from Sirk's film. And, yeah, I still want to quote some portions of that article and start a larger discussion of "women's pictures." Could a moderator rename this thread "Women's Pictures" or "Babetter Sirking Her Duties" or something more clever, please?

#4 MattPage

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Posted 12 May 2006 - 03:42 AM

I'm sure this thread has emerged just to twist the knife. This thread is showing locally as a one off this week, about 20 miles away, but I'm not going to be able to make it.

On the brightside I still have teh DVD to watch the film for the first time without the dubbing

Matt

#5 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 12 May 2006 - 01:34 PM

There is talk in that other thread of Philip Yancey devoting a chapter to this film in What's So Amazing About Grace?. Just for the record, Robert Jewett does this too in Saint Paul Returns to the Movies: Triumph over Shame. Both books came out around the same time and had a profound impact on me, and I always thought it was an interesting coincidence that they devoted entire chapters to this film. (You can use the "search inside" feature at Amazon.com to read these chapters online.)

#6 Persona

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Posted 16 May 2006 - 09:37 AM

Thank you Jeffrey, Doug, Tim and Peter for your quick responses to my post. We had such a great time watching Babette's Feast -- around 25 college students were present who were enthusiastic about the experience as a whole.

I enjoyed the research going in. It was different for me to tackle the film in this light -- when I saw it twice, years ago, I was only responding to it from my own emotions. And I think that's a good way to initially respond to any film -- from your own opinion, which is made up of your own tastes and understandings and from a background that only you understand. This kind of reading must be valid, if only to help you to better perceive yourself. But there was a richness, a deeper, better understanding, that presented itself when I read a few of the links Tim posted, as well as Chapter Two in the Yancy book (which I own and have read, which I'd forgotten he devoted to Babette).

The contrasting views on how to live out the Christian life come to the forefront in the characters' actions in the story. Is this a world to be feared for all its seducing power and temptation, or is it to be inhabited as we discover the redemptive qualities within it? Are we to outright reject "the world" and avoid contact with every evil device, are we to run away and build our own bunker-styled communities that avoid the sinners of society? Or are we to live "in the world but not of it," penetrating darkness, having contact with the sinner but identifying with every beautiful aspect that represents the very nature of our God? These are the questions that the Christian can address while watching this isolated sect devour the heavenly meal, or even when the symbolic secular outsiders first appear in the community.

At the end of our viewing, I did read from the final paragraphs of Yancy's chapter, and it spawned some very good discussion. I would've preferred a JBob or a Mike H or someone like this to have been there to really help drive down the thread of discussion, but all in all it was a great night, and I felt good that I'd introduced this kind of movie to a few people who might be new to it.

-s.

Edited by stef, 16 May 2006 - 09:40 AM.


#7 MattPage

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 04:59 AM

Wow, unbelievable.

Mel and I took advantage of our baby's desire not to be born yet and watched this on DVD last night.

I am now kicking myself that we didn't go to the cinema to see it.

I go the dubbed VHS version of this film a few years ago, which was such a massive disapointment that I'd not really realised the extent of it until last night.

Mel and I both just gaped at the screen. The use of the actors' own voices made a big difference, but I hadn't realised what a criminally poor transfer this film was. We went back after for a look of the original, and it was dark muggy, blurred picture, (oh did I mention it was full screen).

The images on the DVD by contrast are incredible, those who said the film was amazing all along were right. It is. I can't wait for me copy of the Gospel of Matthew DVD to arrive.

After years of saying DVDs aren't all that, I'm a convert on this one (although probably not for too many others)

Unbelievable.

Matt

#8 Tim Willson

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 12:16 AM

At JO's suggestion, I'm interested in comments (esp. from Greg Wright) on the theology of Babette's Feast.

Quoting from Greg's post in the "Experience of Film" thread, I asked:
QUOTE(Tim Willson @ Sep 29 2006, 09:37 PM) View Post

QUOTE(Greg Wright @ Sep 29 2006, 07:28 PM) View Post

Two of my favorite movie experiences were Babette's Feast and Jesus of Montreal -- ironically, both foreign language films.
[snip]
(My two examples, BTW, are perfect examples of that, because I agree with the theology of neither.)

What do you mean when you say you disagree with the theology of Babette's Feast? What is it's theology? Or do you mean the theology expressed by some of the characters?

Numerous people (including authors Yancey and Jewitt mentioned here) have used the film as a springboard to explore theological issues, but I hadn't really thought of the film as having a particular theological POV. Thoughts?

#9 Greg Wright

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 08:00 AM

First, I am wholly on board with BF as a film. As I mentioned on the other thread, my face almost broke with enjoyment when I saw the film. I later brought my whole family to see it when I celebrated my birthday, and have watched it countless times, sharing it with friends who enjoy good films.

And though I haven't read Yancey's books, I imagine I have a pretty good idea how it fits into his theme. One of the great powers of the film is its theme of redemptive grace.

As I read the film, though, it ultimately says "There's eucharist, and then there's eucharist. And the eucharist of the Church has not only lost its power to produce true community, it kills community. True eucharist is in material pleasures." BF wants redemption without the Redeemer. It's not a Christian vision, it's almost a pantheistic, pagan vision. But what an enjoyable one!

(Just so we're all clear on what I mean here -- Cornelius, in the book of Acts, was a pagan whose prayers God honored; so for me, calling BF "pagan" in its vision is not, by definition, pejorative. There are aspects of pagan worship that still manage to honor God while still leaving Christ out of the picture. That's how the world of LOTR manages to work, for instance.)

#10 Darrel Manson

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 10:09 AM

QUOTE(Greg Wright @ Sep 30 2006, 06:00 AM) View Post

As I read the film, though, it ultimately says "There's eucharist, and then there's eucharist. And the eucharist of the Church has not only lost its power to produce true community, it kills community. True eucharist is in material pleasures." BF wants redemption without the Redeemer. It's not a Christian vision, it's almost a pantheistic, pagan vision. But what an enjoyable one!
If that is indeed what it says, I could still embrace the theology. Is that not in fact what happens to the church the more it becomes institution and the less it becomes body of Christ? Which is not to say I am opposed to the church as institution, but the almost inevitable result is the church in BF, looking backwards, set in its ways, waiting for an end that they really don't believe in.

I don't read BF as wanting redemption without Redeemer, but for the church (as body of Christ) to be the Redeemer, and can only be that when it is alive -- when it has shared in resurrection. Perhaps the film works best if we don't try to fit Babette into any idea of Christ figure, but rather as a much rarer figure in film, the Spirit, breathing life.


#11 Greg Wright

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 10:57 AM

QUOTE(Darrel Manson @ Sep 30 2006, 10:09 AM) View Post

QUOTE(Greg Wright @ Sep 30 2006, 06:00 AM) View Post

As I read the film, though, it ultimately says "There's eucharist, and then there's eucharist. And the eucharist of the Church has not only lost its power to produce true community, it kills community. True eucharist is in material pleasures." BF wants redemption without the Redeemer. It's not a Christian vision, it's almost a pantheistic, pagan vision. But what an enjoyable one!
If that is indeed what it says, I could still embrace the theology. Is that not in fact what happens to the church the more it becomes institution and the less it becomes body of Christ? Which is not to say I am opposed to the church as institution, but the almost inevitable result is the church in BF, looking backwards, set in its ways, waiting for an end that they really don't believe in.


Yes, certainly. And like I pointed out, I don't find such a theology distasteful, per se; I just don't find it particularly Christian. We might observe that the same problem existed in Christ's day, and that he pointedly lectured about the problem. But He came to present Himself as the solution to the problem, and BF just doesn't offer the same solution, I don't feel. (And it's not just that the solution isn't presented explicitly, I don't think. I think BF is interested in Jesus' teachings, not in Jesus the Man, the Son of God.)

QUOTE(Darrel Manson @ Sep 30 2006, 10:09 AM) View Post
I don't read BF as wanting redemption without Redeemer, but for the church (as body of Christ) to be the Redeemer, and can only be that when it is alive -- when it has shared in resurrection.
I think that's an excellent and supportable reading of BF, Darrel. I just don't agree with it.

QUOTE(Darrel Manson @ Sep 30 2006, 10:09 AM) View Post
Perhaps the film works best if we don't try to fit Babette into any idea of Christ figure, but rather as a much rarer figure in film, the Spirit, breathing life.


Yes; and I certainly think my face responded to the film in that way! That's why it will always be in my top ten list, and one of my top two or three movie experiences. It's a terribly spiritual film. But I still don't agree with its theology; and that doesn't bother me in the least.

Edited by Greg Wright, 30 September 2006 - 10:57 AM.


#12 tenpenny

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Posted 07 October 2006 - 12:54 PM

QUOTE(Greg Wright @ Sep 30 2006, 08:00 AM) View Post

First, I am wholly on board with BF as a film. As I mentioned on the other thread, my face almost broke with enjoyment when I saw the film. I later brought my whole family to see it when I celebrated my birthday, and have watched it countless times, sharing it with friends who enjoy good films.

And though I haven't read Yancey's books, I imagine I have a pretty good idea how it fits into his theme. One of the great powers of the film is its theme of redemptive grace.

As I read the film, though, it ultimately says "There's eucharist, and then there's eucharist. And the eucharist of the Church has not only lost its power to produce true community, it kills community. True eucharist is in material pleasures." BF wants redemption without the Redeemer. It's not a Christian vision, it's almost a pantheistic, pagan vision. But what an enjoyable one!

(Just so we're all clear on what I mean here -- Cornelius, in the book of Acts, was a pagan whose prayers God honored; so for me, calling BF "pagan" in its vision is not, by definition, pejorative. There are aspects of pagan worship that still manage to honor God while still leaving Christ out of the picture. That's how the world of LOTR manages to work, for instance.)

Babette fortuitously won 10,000 francs in a French lottery and she spent all of it--every last franc of it--to purchase the ingredients for a dinner to celebrate the life of the sisters' father. Those winnings could have secured a better life for Babette, in material terms, if she had been selfishly inclined. I think it is important to remember the unselfish nature of Babette's gift (in the face of "It's not a Christian vision, it's almost a pantheistic, pagan vision. But what an enjoyable one!").

Why then did Babette choose the gift that she chose? Besides the obvious reason that it allowed her to make use of her long-dormant skills as a master chef, there seems to be a deeper meaning that is directed to the sisters and the other sect members. Babette seems to want to break through their pietistic armor, so that they might realize that food, or shall we say more generally the bounty of creation, is also a gift from God (in addition to the priceless gift of His Son) that He means for us to enjoy, and not disdain.

Before the dinner, and knowing of its extravagance, the sect members vowed, with great solemnity, for the sake of the sisters and for their own spiritual well-being, to eat without savoring, to drink without relishing--in short, to remain insensate in the face of what they took to be devilish temptation. Of course their high-minded resolve did not withstand Babette's culinary artistry. In spite of themselves, the faithful actually enjoyed eating and drinking, perhaps for the first time. Old grudges were forgiven. Old regrets lost their sting. Brotherliness and sisterliness were rediscovered.

I said "rediscovered," not "discovered." For I do not believe this newfound appreciation for the bounty of creation annulled their previous faith--rather, it enhanced it.

It is helpful to know some of the historical and theological context of Denmark and the other Nordic countries when approaching the question of the theology in Babette's Feast (I made a similar point recently in the thread on Ordet), i.e. Inner Mission, Grundtvigianism, etc. The Swedish Lutheran theologian, Gustav Wingren (1910-2000), has written at considerable length about the modern theological tendency to overemphasize the second article of the Apostles' Creed at the expense of the first article. A useful and concise summary of his views on the matter is contained in his paper, "The Doctrine of Creation: Not an Appendix but the First Article," which was published in Word & World, vol. 4 (1984). The paper is available online at:

http://www.luthersem...4-4_Wingren.pdf

Note the following paragraph from Wingren's paper:

"Modern exegesis makes it more difficult to identify the belief in creation as something Christian. Alongside the tendency of the revival movements to assemble everything around faith in Jesus in an individualistic manner, and along with Barth's theologically motivated negativism over against the first article of the Creed, we must also add the modern exegetical bifurcation as a cause of this unusual 'deficiency-disease.' Church bodies are not getting any real support from theology. They fumble after a basis for the doctrine of creation but receive only flawed answers from the theologians. This fumbling is taking place in a situation that is marked by theological poverty; what is now incontrovertibly needed on purely practical grounds is a renaissance of the first article."

Far from seeing the vision in Babette's Feast as "not a Christian vision," I see it as profoundly Christian because it seems to respect the full tripartite sense of the Apostles' Creed. Greg, it seems to me that you equate Christianity with the second article of the Creed alone. Or do I misunderstand your objection to Babette's Feast?

Mike McIntyre

#13 Greg Wright

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Posted 07 October 2006 - 03:16 PM

Mike,

That's an excellent analysis of BF.

What I think you misunderstand is my opinion of it as a whole. I don't object to the film in the least; as I mentioned over on the "Experience of Film" thread, this is one of my top film experiences ever. I'm even screening it tomorrow morning for a group of college students as the focus of their Sunday morning worship experience. So I don't object to anything about the movie.

This is not to say that I agree with the film and what it seems to be trying to say. Those are two completely different things. And who's to say that my theology is "right," anyway? I'm not setting myself up as judge. I'm merely trying to point out that the film's ethos seems imbued with a certain pagan embrace of earthiness -- an aspect that plenty of Christians like Lewis, Tolkien, Calvin and Luther would probably see as a "good" thing. Scripture even tells us that God intends material things for good.

Sacrifice is good, too. But it's also not purely Christian.

My point of view on BF has nothing to do with creeds. I just feel that there are few few things that we can call truly Christian because precious few tell the whole Christian story. And they don't need to. BF tells a part of it, and tells it magnificently. But it leaves a whole bunch of stuff out, too. Wouldn't you agree?

#14 tenpenny

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Posted 07 October 2006 - 07:06 PM

QUOTE(Greg Wright @ Oct 7 2006, 03:16 PM) View Post

Mike,

That's an excellent analysis of BF.

What I think you misunderstand is my opinion of it as a whole. I don't object to the film in the least; as I mentioned over on the "Experience of Film" thread, this is one of my top film experiences ever. I'm even screening it tomorrow morning for a group of college students as the focus of their Sunday morning worship experience. So I don't object to anything about the movie.

This is not to say that I agree with the film and what it seems to be trying to say. Those are two completely different things. And who's to say that my theology is "right," anyway? I'm not setting myself up as judge. I'm merely trying to point out that the film's ethos seems imbued with a certain pagan embrace of earthiness -- an aspect that plenty of Christians like Lewis, Tolkien, Calvin and Luther would probably see as a "good" thing. Scripture even tells us that God intends material things for good.

Sacrifice is good, too. But it's also not purely Christian.

My point of view on BF has nothing to do with creeds. I just feel that there are few few things that we can call truly Christian because precious few tell the whole Christian story. And they don't need to. BF tells a part of it, and tells it magnificently. But it leaves a whole bunch of stuff out, too. Wouldn't you agree?

Thanks.

I shouldn't have used the word "objection." Let me rephrase. You clearly love the film. You find it to be highly spiritual. You recommend it to everyone, enthusiastically. You just don't consider the essential message of the film to be "Christian." Is that it?

Because if that's it, I would just like to hear some of the reasoning that lies behind it. The two sisters in Babette's Feast, explicitly following the example of Christ, give their lives to serving their brothers and sisters in Christ. When Babette enters the film, she became a servant to the sisters--a Christian servant twice over, if you will. Christian themes suffuse the film. The setting for the film, a nineteenth-century Jutland village peopled by Pietist Revival Lutherans, as yet untouched by modernity, could not be more overtly Christian. Where is this paganism to which you refer? Of what does it consist? Perhaps what you call "pagan," I call "Christian." In fact, if we took your phrase:

"... the film's ethos seems imbued with a certain pagan embrace of earthiness,"

and simply replaced the word "pagan" with "Christian," to wit:

"... the film's ethos seems imbued with a certain Christian embrace of earthiness,"

I'd be perfectly happy with that assessment, but I suspect you might find it well-nigh incomprehensible (besides not agreeing with it). That is why I ventured to bring up creeds, theological movements and such. It's kind of hard to discuss theology without, well, discussing theology.

Mike McIntyre

#15 tenpenny

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Posted 08 October 2006 - 11:09 AM

QUOTE(Greg Wright @ Oct 7 2006, 03:16 PM) View Post

My point of view on BF has nothing to do with creeds. I just feel that there are few few things that we can call truly Christian because precious few tell the whole Christian story. And they don't need to. BF tells a part of it, and tells it magnificently. But it leaves a whole bunch of stuff out, too. Wouldn't you agree?

Greg,

I meant to answer this, but I was rushing to get off the computer so I could watch my favorite college football team play on TV. Yes, I certainly agree that BF does not present the whole Christian story or outlook. If completeness is your essential criterion, then I can see why you would say BF is not Christian.

Mike


#16 tenpenny

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Posted 08 October 2006 - 11:46 AM

QUOTE(nardis @ Oct 7 2006, 09:57 PM) View Post

I liked the film, but can never watch it without remembering the ending of the story from which it came - in which Babette did it all for herself, and says so.

I think a lot of Isak Dinesen's text has been reinterpreted here...

I have not read the story. At the end of the movie, Babette says of the gift, "It was not just for you." Thus, she admits a dual motivation. But I don't think it is fair to characterize this other motivation, in the movie at least, as selfish. Babette is an artist with food and she wants to express herself as an artist. Does this make her selfish? If the book says something different about this other motivation, then perhaps the reinterpretation is not here--in this forum--but in the film itself. We are, after all, discussing the film here and not the story.

Is the source of unease about allowing BF its full Christian bona fides rooted in the "artist" theme? When the artful sister states, "In paradise you [Babette] will be the great artist that God meant you to be," is the juxtaposition of paradise and artist representative of that which makes the film, ultimately, pagan?

Mike McIntyre

#17 Greg Wright

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 07:50 AM

Hmmm.... I'm going to try to clarify myself once more before I bow out of this discussion. I really regret even commenting on the theology of BF, since that's not the level on which I find it tearfully, gleefully enjoyable. And to tear into the theological fabric of the movie is, to me, tantamount to rendering its magic intellectually sterile. BF is not ultimately about theology (in the analytic sense), it's about art and about living (both of which, naturally, touch on and depend on theology, but are not the same thing). Talking about the theology of BF is like talking about the horseness of a zebra -- relevant, but really missing the point.

Nonetheless, I opened a can of worms, and will take responsibility for that.

So in a nutshell, here's another way of looking at what I was getting at.

Meaningful aspects of the human condition take many different forms: the physical, the aesthetic, the intellectual, the emotional, the spiritual (for an incomplete but representative list). All these aspects are connected to one another, but each has its own unique properties and God-given purposes. Human fallenness has, in some small way at the very least, corrupted each of these. Christianity puts emphasis on the spiritual dimension, specifically through the agency of the Holy Spirit, as the primary means of healing whatever ails the whole (while, at the same time, giving proper attention to the properties and purposes of each).

While not contradicting or denying any aspect of Christian orthodoxy, and indeed while highlighting a whole bunch of it, BF seems to me to emphasize the aesthetic and the physical as the means to healing the whole. That's all. And that's not a bad thing -- and, to the extent that BF addresses these dimensions, it does so fabulously well.

It's just that BF's solution seems to me one that any spiritually-oriented person could embrace without embracing Christianity in the least. And that doesn't jive with my own (mildly exclusivist) view of theology (which is a completely different thing than saying, "It doesn't jive with Christian theology").

Edited by Greg Wright, 10 October 2006 - 07:55 AM.


#18 Benchwarmer

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Posted 21 December 2009 - 09:24 AM

Saw this film on DVD tonight. Loved it. Will definitely be coming back for a revisit.

Major Spoiler ahead
One question nagging away at me though, The Scene when Lorens and Martina reunite, and Lorens says "I have been with you every day of my life.....You must also know that I shall be with you every day that is granted to me from now on. Every evening I shall sit down to dine with you, not with my body which is of no importance, but with my soul. Because this evening I have learned, my dear that in this beautiful world of ours, all things are possible."

Is this suggesting some kind of detachment from Lorens married life, that Martina is the one that has been in his mind and heart his whole life? More to the point, has the sixth commandment been broken in spirit?

I might as well admit the fact that I'm sensing that I have completely misread the scene here and am just waiting for someone to correct me so that I can get the monkey off my shoulder.

Edited by Benchwarmer, 21 December 2009 - 09:25 AM.


#19 Persona

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Posted 21 December 2009 - 11:20 AM

Saw this film on DVD tonight. Loved it. Will definitely be coming back for a revisit.

Major Spoiler ahead
One question nagging away at me though, The Scene when Lorens and Martina reunite, and Lorens says "I have been with you every day of my life.....You must also know that I shall be with you every day that is granted to me from now on. Every evening I shall sit down to dine with you, not with my body which is of no importance, but with my soul. Because this evening I have learned, my dear that in this beautiful world of ours, all things are possible."

Is this suggesting some kind of detachment from Lorens married life, that Martina is the one that has been in his mind and heart his whole life? More to the point, has the sixth commandment been broken in spirit?

I might as well admit the fact that I'm sensing that I have completely misread the scene here and am just waiting for someone to correct me so that I can get the monkey off my shoulder.


I'm glad you loved it, Benchwarmer! It is amazing how Babette's Feast just keeps touching people over and over through the years. It's unlimited by time, which is the mark of a truly inspiring work.

I've been wanting to see it again lately, as I've used it as a topic starter for a project I'm working on, and also because the A&F Top 100 will be coming to a vote again sometime next year. This is one of those rare films in the Top 10 that I would really like to see move up the list. It's at #8 now; my personal preference is too see it voted into the Top 3.

You've got a great question there. In order for me to add my two cents, I'd need to see it again. Alas, I have no old notes from years ago when I really studied Babette's Feast and can't precisely recollect the scene you're describing. But I'd love to see it again soon and get back to you.

#20 Buckeye Jones

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 09:54 PM

Just made this my 15th film off the latest T100. As an aside, I like the other top 100s better for the sole reason I wasn't sitting at a piddly <15% viewing percentage! More pop films please! For my pride!

Anyway, loved it. What a wonderful film--I had the tiniest bubblings of moisture in the tear ducts, which is an impressive feat! I'll write more soon, but now, must finish my sermon: On the horrors of eating endangered species.

Saw this film on DVD tonight. Loved it. Will definitely be coming back for a revisit.

Major Spoiler ahead
One question nagging away at me though, The Scene when Lorens and Martina reunite, and Lorens says "I have been with you every day of my life.....You must also know that I shall be with you every day that is granted to me from now on. Every evening I shall sit down to dine with you, not with my body which is of no importance, but with my soul. Because this evening I have learned, my dear that in this beautiful world of ours, all things are possible."

Is this suggesting some kind of detachment from Lorens married life, that Martina is the one that has been in his mind and heart his whole life? More to the point, has the sixth commandment been broken in spirit?

I might as well admit the fact that I'm sensing that I have completely misread the scene here and am just waiting for someone to correct me so that I can get the monkey off my shoulder.


I didn't think Lorens ever married. He chose his career over love.