21Mar22: “Babette’s Feast”

Those who follow Andy’s doings realize he likes to block captions on international films. One of my all-time favorite movies, “Babette’s Feast”, was shown on TCM Channel yesterday. Even though I’ve seen this film seven, eight times, I never tire of it. Missing a few captions because of “cat’s body” probably wouldn’t be a problem by now, but I appreciated the fact that Andy stayed away till the end credits before he hopped up on the television stand. Good kitty!


Spoiler Alert! What follows is a bit of a sermon. The intent isn’t to proselytize, just to comment on a movie that has a Christian message familiar to people raised in that faith. Similar messages occur in all the world’s major religions.


“Babette’s Feast” is a movie that plays differently depending on one’s age when viewed. I saw it first in the 1990s, when it mostly was a film about gustatory pleasures and how staid Protestants warmed up to pleasures of the flesh though they promised each other before the meal not to taste or enjoy it because they feared to enjoy it was to give into the devil! (Protestantism tries to suck out all the joys of life. LOL!) This time around, I saw it as a film about lost opportunities that proved to work out in the end, not as one hoped they’d work out, but how they had to work out, a slight hint of Protestant predestinationism. You know, God’s will and that’s OK, too!

A deeper message was about spiritual grace, where the wrongs that were breaking up the little “congregation” finally are forgiven as the old friends realize the wrongs weren’t that bad after all, and sometimes were repaid in kind anyway. (In vino veritas. Lots of it with the feast!) This comment on spiritual grace seems a good characterization of that revealed in “Babette’s Feast” and a good Lenten sermon for those of us working through spiritual renewal for Easter: 

“Roy L. Smith says that the art of forgiving is a spiritual grace every Christian should develop. Because this is so difficult to put into practice, he offers the following suggestions:

1. Begin by assuring yourself that compared to Christ’s suffering you haven’t been seriously wronged at all.

2. Recall the many kind deeds that have been shown to you, perhaps even by the person who has harmed you.

3. List the benefits you have received from the Lord.

4. Thank Him for blessing you with His love and forgiveness each day.

5. Make an honest effort to pray for the one who has injured you.

6. Go even further by looking for an opportunity to help him.

7. If the offense is especially hard to forget, try to erase the memory by thinking gracious and generous thoughts.

8. Finally, before you fall asleep at night, repeat slowly and thoughtfully that phrase from the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.’

Some people try to punish themselves for their sins. They do not stand on the promises of forgiveness and Christ’ propitiation.”

Finally, what is God’s grace, as believed by Christians?

“In Christian theology, grace is the help given to one by God because God desires one to have it, not necessarily because of anything one has done to earn it. It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to people – ‘generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved’ – that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God.”

31 thoughts on “21Mar22: “Babette’s Feast”

    • It’s beautifully filmed and beautifully told. There are many ways to view it. I just hope my interpretation doesn’t interfere with your pleasure in viewing it!

  1. [Second try at commenting! I don’t know why, but lately it’s been really difficult to both read and comment on WordPress blogs. I keep getting the message “Connection reset” and my comment disappears, or I’m logged out.]

    I haven’t seen Babette’s Feast in many years. It seems I’m due for a review, however. When I first saw the movie (yes, I was a bit younger then), I thought it was a poke at Scandinavian Calvinism with French cuisine and culture used as the stick. I also got the message that life is meant to be savored and enjoyed, that it isn’t supposed to be a waiting room for some heavenly paradise. I didn’t consider the rich Christian terms you use in your review, but you are right: it’s not Christian to focus on sin and penitence, when the faith is really about redemption and grace. That the characters in the movie discover this towards the end is moving—a little late perhaps, but better than to never have learned.

    I didn’t expect to read this on yours and Andy’s blog, Doug! I enjoy your insights on the movies you watch. You ought to review more of them here!

    • Thanks! I enjoy movies a lot, as it must be apparent by now, and I especially enjoy watching movies I enjoyed earlier to see if I have a different view of them now. My only hope for this one today is it wasn’t too heavy on the Christianity business. I was raised in the Presbyterian Church, so this hell and damnation business is an undercurrent one deals with. The merger of northern and southern branches of the church in the USA in 1983 was one of the liberal (northern) and southern (conservative) branches that separated in the US Civil War as a healing/damning of the new church. I personally feel as a northerner the merger was the death of the church, which had supported the civil rights movement in the 1960s, but now struggles with issues like “Do gay, lesbian, etc. people have a place in heaven…or our church?” My views are more concerned with fighting for the rights of all people, not just the ones who show up in church on Sundays. You know, that social business.

      Actually, I had tears when the congregants in the film discovered their grudges were pointless and I felt that this was meant to symbolize that it came about through a feast that was the culmination of years of events with softening attitudes, thanks to Babette, that could be tied to God’s grace realized. It paralleled a personal (Lenten) experience of my own, and that triggered the joyous tears!

      • I became Episcopalian as an adult, mainly to appease a mother-in-law who thought the kids needed to be baptized: I drifted away however, for the same reasons you mention in your experience with the Presbyterian church. I didn’t understand why there were so many arguments over what was acceptable in the church, right down to what music we could play at weddings and whether coffee hour after the service was a secular act or a religious one. [rolls eyes] We also had a pastor who openly opined that divorce was sinful and single mothers were terrible parents. (She’s now a bishop, which to me says a lot about what hasn’t changed in the church.) I am sort of a member of a local church now, one with a gay pastor and a more welcoming parish. There are still members who argue over petty issues however, which I guess will be the case in any group. The latest fight has been over masks and returning to a shared Communion; I’ve said it’s too soon, while others claim “other churches are doing it, so we should too.” So I’ll be sticking to a private form of faith at home. I think God is present to us, regardless of whether we’re in a church or at a dining table at home.

        • I attended an ecumenical Good Friday service where I stumbled finding the passage in the CBP (Common Book of Prayer) or whatever it is – I didn’t recognize the abbreviation for a text NOT used in the Presbyterian service, and I got grim stares for asking the person next to me what the abbreviation meant! “You pagans probably shouldn’t have communion with us,” was the message I got on that Holy Day.

          In my own church, as an elder, I made bread for communion from scratch. The first batch was a failure. I’d not made bread for several years, and that fact became very clear. The second batch wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. I ran out of time, having stayed up all night making it. After the service, someone commented on the bread, saying it wasn’t, well…! He also gave me the suggestion to get Hawaiian bread at the grocery store next time. I thought, if you only knew how much I tried to make this special instead of fancy, sugary bread from a commercial baker…! Also, the bread Jesus and the Disciples had at the Last Supper probably was more like pita and was made from flour that probably had lots of insects, harvest debris, and who knows what else in it…but no leavening. I was very hurt by the comment.

          I guess some of us aren’t meant for churchy situations! I think of it as a refuge from the crap of the day, to put it bluntly, not where to get the crap of the day.

          • The Book of Common Prayer is published by the Anglican/Episcopal Church (depending on which side of the pond you’re on), so ugh, I hate thinking you were surrounded by a bunch of blue-nosed Episcopalians. There are a lot of them—I’m always running into them when I make the mistake of visiting an Episcopal church while I’m traveling. You know them by that looking-down-the-nose expression they have when you make a mistake during the liturgy or sneeze or act in some other ungodly way. I once started crying during an All Souls’ service and had to blow my nose. The looks I got from the people around me could have froze a polar bear.

            (I was told by a Jewish friend that behavior isn’t limited to Episcopalians, however. So your mileage may vary with the congregation.)

            It’s really odd how mean-spirited some church people can be, like, for instance, that one member commenting on your Communion bread. (Which isn’t easy to make, I know.) It’s usually the ones who nod and say “Amen!” the loudest during the service, then promptly forget during the social hour how to be kind to their fellow church members. Yes, as much as I love to visit old churches and cathedrals, I’m happier not dealing with churchy matters.

          • Exactly! I’m sorry I feel this way because I have felt transported and prepared for the week to come in church, but I’ve also felt disappointed that people like the woman at the ecumenical service didn’t realize she had an opportunity to be Christian and help me with an unfamiliar text specific to her church, but not in mine.

    • Interesting, isn’t it, that we who chose to have chaos in our homes because of the animal companions we have, yet still love, love, love that fine art of opera! I forgot there was a long sequence of a Mozart operatic duet in the early part till I watched it this time. (I’m a bit ashamed I can’t decide which opera – “The Marriage of Figaro”?) It was choice and beautifully sung! Andy blocked the credits, so I missed the dress credit – amazing! They were worthy of mention for sure. They added greatly to the creation of the mood of the film.

        • Thanks! That saves me some time searching through Mozart opera CD sets. Of course, it wouldn’t have been a miserable time!

          • Don Giovanna and Zerlina sing this duet in a scene where he proposes marriage to her and she accepts. (I’ve since looked it up and listened again to this duet.) Then, in “Babette’s Feast”, the Paris Opera star, Achille Papin, smitten with Philippa, one of the spinster sisters, the one with the beautiful singing voice that he is teaching her to make better, sings this duet with her. He, of course, is about to propose marriage to her, using this duet as a way to work his charming way over her. She refuses, of course, and, thanks to you, easyweimaraner, this new detail adds subtle depth to this scene in the story! It also helps understand why the whole duet was included in the scene. (…without recitative, but who cares?) At the time, while I enjoyed the duet, I wondered about using the whole thing.

    • It’s available in many formats via the Internet. I watched it this time on Ted Turner’s Turner Classic Movie Channel. The first time I watched it on Nebraska Public Television. In between, I’ve seen in various places, including on a personal DVD.

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