Director Gabriel Axel captures the rugged timelessness of the Jutland landscape, and draws inspired performances from Stéphane Audran as Babette, and Bodil Keyer and Birgitte Federspiel as the sisters Filippa and Martine. Per Norgard's sparse but affecting score captures the mood of the film perfectly. Altogether it's a heart-warming and affecting experience.
On the DVD: Babette's Feast on disc reproduces the vivid colour photography well in widescreen. Theres dubbing and subtitles in English, French and Italian. Both the trailers for the English- and Danish-speaking markets are included, the latter an effective summary of the film.--Richard Whitehouse
Fully restored, Gabriel Axel s celebrated Oscar-winning classic remains as charming, entertaining and mouth-watering as ever.
Adapted from a story by Out of Africa author Isak Dinesen, it tells the story of a 19th Century religious community on Denmark s remote and windswept coast. Into this austere environment comes Babette, a mysterious refugee from France s civil war.
When she mounts a French gourmet feast to mark the community s anniversary, the local elders are scandalized. Just who is the strangely talented Babette, who has terrified this pious town with the prospect of losing their souls for enjoying too much earthly pleasure?
Winner of the 1988 Oscar for best Foreign Language Film
Winner of the 1989 BAFTA for Best Foreign Language Film
In some ways the least interesting character is Babette herself. Her character is certainly the least developed, and her last scene verges on soupiness - but just keeps to the right side. The general, on the other hand, is marvellously written and acted. His scene with Martine (whom he has loved, but never visited, for many decades) is deeply touching, and just captures the feeling of warmth after a sublime banquet.
The speech that he makes while the 'cailles en sarcophage' are served is the crux of the film: physical pleasure (eating, he means), when the food is good enough, is just like spiritual pleasure, or love. This shocks his puritan fellow diners, who were initially worried about the sin of a gluttonous banquet. But the banquet is art, not gluttony, and they feel the truth of what he says: the schisms and discord in the congregation vanish, and in the last sight we have of the villagers they are in a circle around the village well, under the stars, singing the same hymn they sung with the old pastor earlier in the film.
The cinematography is very good, and the Danish setting is as beautiful as they come. As for the sound, I think this film is much better in the original soundtrack with subtitles: the English dubbing has an unpleasant Disney quality. (The DVD has this feature, as well as notably better picture and sound quality). By the way there is a beautiful song near the end, just after the banquet.
This film's gentle beauty amply makes up for a few rough edges and less successful scenes here and there. 5 stars is the only rating possible.
I would have much prefered a subtitled version and am still looking (in vain) for one.
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