Babettes Feast


Babettes Feast Essay, Research Paper

Camille Gangelhoff



?May my food my body maintain. . . give thanks for all things to the Lord?

I believe that everything happens for a reason. Happen, and happen at

certain times for a reason also. The movie, Babette?s Feast, helped confirm my

beliefs. This movie started out focused on Martina and Phillipa with their father, the

pastor. The movie quickly shows his silent dominance over his two daughters. He

keeps them under his wings until the day he dies, and then even after that they

continue to live in his shadow. Everything he preached is believed and followed by

them and members of their community. The father taught them that ?the only thing

which we may take with us from our life on earth are those things which we have

given away.? Because of their father, the two devoted their lives to carrying on his

preaching and his kindness towards the other followers. So instead of marrying,

they decided to devote their lives to God and to their late father. By doing this they

would take away from earth exactly what they gave while on earth. Their

dedication to their father and the church made them underestimate the power of

love and marriage.

It?s not like these women did not have chances to marry, or take different

courses in their lives. Martina was extremely beautiful and caught the eye of every

young man, but the sternness of her father, and her own aloofness kept them from

pursuing her. A prime example would be, Lorens Loewenhielm, the officer who

met her via his rich older aunt. Martina was very interested in him, but never gave

him any encouragement. Phillipa was blessed with ?the voice of an angel,? while

singing in church she caught the eye/ear of world renowned French tenor Achille

Papin. Not only does he fall in love with her, he wanted to make her into a star in

France. Yet again, a suitor is rebuffed by the daughters. In both cases the

daughters did not openly reject their suitors, instead they were aloof and acted

uninterested. In the case of Phillipa she asked her father to inform Papin that she no

longer wanted to take music lessons from him. There is no clear reason why they

turned down all their suitors. Though there are many possible reasons. The girls

may not have found the men attractive and suitable to settle down with, maybe they

just weren?t interested in men, perhaps their true calling was God and helping

others, though it could possibly be because their father had told them never to

marry. He told them how love and lust was evil and should be avoided. How it can

only lead to pain, so instead of taking chances they never chose to love. In either

case they turned down choices to remain with their father and with God.

The movie then fast forwards to a stormy night when Babette, a French

refugee, came to them for help. A good friend of hers and former acquaintance of

theirs, Achille Papin, recommended the sisters to Babette. Papin knew the kindness

of the two and knew they would take a stranger into their home, especially a

stranger in need of shelter and love. In France, Babette had been a world class chef.

She loved to cook, it was her passion. When she began to work for the sisters (for

free) she no longer was able to cook gourmet meals. She was only given a budget to

prepare dried cod and ale-bread, the staple diet for those who lived in Jutland. Even

though she could only prepare simple, cheap, and rather unpalatable dishes, she

still put her heart and soul into each dish. Her love of food was apparent if you

watched her cook, she took time to add spices which she picked herself or had

specially ordered to the corner store to add to the normally bland dishes and made

them her own. The differences in the food was apparent when Babette was unable

to cook the soup for one of the elderly followers, so the sisters prepared the dish

instead. The was an obvious look of disappointment on that man when he looked

into the dish and realized it was not Babette who had made it. Her presence with

the sisters was apparent all over the community, not just within the walls of their


Though the movie seemed to have a simple outline and meaning, a closer

look is needed to understand all of the meanings. At first it looks as though its just

about two repressed sisters living alone with their French maid. Though, when you

consider how the movie was made, a deeper understanding is taken. For instance,

look at the house the two sisters live in. From the outside it is just like all the

others. White, square, and very boring. On the inside though, it is much different.

Unlike all the other houses, this one is very well decorated with fine furniture and

artwork. Even though these are ?poor? women, daughters of a preacher they still

could afford fine furnishings. It seems that the directors chose to have their house

stand out from all the others. Their house just seems warm and friendly from the

interior, unlike all the other homes which have a very cold and sterile look to the

interior. The house just emulates the women, it shows their warmth and kindness

in every room.

The directors also chose to use bleak and simple photography. They chose

Jutland as the setting because the scenery is depressing and barren all year round,

instead of lively and lush of other areas. The reasoning behind that could easily be

because they wanted to show the contrast between the elements surrounding the

sisters and the richness of God in their lives. How they didn?t need beautiful scenery

to make them happy, they only needed God. It also could be the opposite. The

lived on a cliff where there was a very angry seeming ocean crashing into the steep

rocks constantly. There was anger there. The bareness could also represent the lack

of ?life? in the sisters. They never experienced romance, fun, passion, or

excitement. Their life was much like their surroundings . . . dull.

Another meaning in this movie, is the connection between Babette and the

sisters. On one plane they are all left alone without any family. The sisters have

lost their only life, their father. Babette was forced to exile her country in a time of

war, losing her family to gunfire. They are also alike on another plane. Babette was

a great chef in her time, because of war she was forced to deny her great talents.

Even though she lived with the sisters for over twelve years, she never told them of

her talents as a chef, she chose not to ever bring it up. Phillipa was also much like

Babette, though Phillipa was blessed with a great singing voice. Unlike Babette she

was never able to show it off for hundreds of people. She also denied her talents to

live a different lifestyle.

When Babette won the French lottery of 10,000 francs she decided to both

help herself, and help repay those who had helped her when she was the lowest.

She decided to create a real French meal, a seven course masterpiece in honor of the

pastors 100th birthday. The sisters agreed to let her create a meal to her liking,

because they had lived in Jutland all their lives they were naive about the cuisine in

France. To adequately prepare for her meal, Babette had to go to France to order

all the necessary ingredients. When the boat came back with all the ingredients, the

sisters were shocked, and nervous. There was a pigs head, a live sea turtle, live

grouse in a wooden cage, red wine, champagne along with other items they had

never seen before. The sisters immediately became worried and believe that Babette

was a witch and was preparing a feast to bewitch the good citizens of the

community. When the sisters organized a meeting of all of those who would be

attending the feast, they warned them about the contents of the meal, and what it

meant to them. They decided that they must not verbally show any emotion or

reaction to the food presented. They were to eat it without any reaction of any sort.

If they did, that would mean that they were being bewitched. At the feast, the only

one not aware of the pact was Lorens Loewenhielm, the general who had first

visited the sisters over thirty years before. He had been stationed in France and was

very accustomed to fine food. He knew and appreciated the work that went into it.

He savored every bite and commented on it to everyone at the table. Even though

no one at the table, besides Lorens Loewenhielm was accustomed to such fine

cuisine they soon became aware of what good food they were eating. They

devoured every bite, and especially enjoyed the wine and champagne over the water

they were used to. Even though they didn?t verbally show their pleasure, you could

see it in their faces.

In the years that followed the pastors death, the followers had all drifted

away from each other. Bickering and fighting had broken out among the followers,

everyone was mad at everyone else. It had severely harmed the unity and

effectiveness of the group. But after the great meal by Babette the disposition of the

follows completely changed. After the meal they were all friendly to each other,

they hugged and rejoiced. They even forgave each other for the sins they had

committed years before. There seemed to have been a magical experience at that

dinner table. People became happy and lively while eating her wonderful food, the

uplifting of spirits and mending of relationships was magical. Some might say it was

the celebration of the pastor that brought them together. Though, the most accurate

answer, was the meal presented by Babette. She put such love, passion, creativity

and made it into a seductive love affair that no one who tasted the food was immune

to its powers. They all became part of the food. There was so much power in the

food it healed rifts in the community that had been there for years.

Though it may have seemed random that Babette showed up on the sisters

doorstep on a stormy night, armed with a letter from Phillipa?s old beau. It really

wasn?t, Babette was a necessary part of their lives. Because everything happens for

a reason, Babette came to live with the sisters for a reason. During the time Babette

came to Jutland the community was in shambles. After the loss of the pastor faith

had begun to dwindle. Though Babette was often a silent attribute she in fact was

very powerful in all their lives. She may not have verbally preached to the

community, but her food had a message that connected them all. Babette came to

Jutland to escape from the war in France. but her presence was much more

important than just a housemaid, she also helped the sisters with their charity work.

More importantly, she came there to help reunite the community. That was her

role in life. To create beautiful meals, and help that poor community in rural


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