aka Babettes gaestebud
Behind the film’s deceptively simple story is a sort of parable or fable of religion and life. A voice-over narrator introduces us to a pair of aging sisters, daughters of a now-deceased Protestant minister on the Jutland coast of Denmark, whose names are Martina (Birgitte Federspiel) and Philippa (Bodil Kjer) — “after Martin Luther and his friend, Philip Melanchthon.” These pious sisters lead quiet lives of touching service among their late father’s remaining followers, a handful of older residents of a tiny nineteenth-century coastal settlement that is at once almost a religious community and a sect unto itself.
Babette’s Feast is a feast in itself, for the heart, the senses, and above all the spirit. At the same time, unlike many food-themed films (cf. Like Water for Chocolate; Tortilla Soup), it isn’t a voluptuous or sensual affair. It’s sensitive, funny, hopeful, and ultimately joyous; but there’s a restrained, almost ascetical quality to it, especially in the first half. Even in the climactic feast there is no collapse into epicurian dissolution. Elevation, not self- gratification, is the goal of Babette’s Feast.