In the old story "The Tortoise And The Hare" you probably remember that the tortoise, despite all odds and all expectations, wins the race. "Babette's Feast" is like that story. It's slow (but never boring), it's plodding (but never tedious), it's intentional (but never obvious). Filming a classic Danish short-story about a religious order whose piety stops just short of becoming a cult, centering on the two unmarried daughters of the group's long-deceased founder, whose decades-long compassion is only outdone by their ability to turn bread and fish into an edible stew, and including a mysterious houseguest and then friend, whose secret when revealed will not only stun, but bless, is no doubt easier said than done. But it's all magically pulled off in this beautiful film.
When I first read this short-story by author Karen Blixen-Isak Dinesen in the 1970s I loved it. When I first heard the short-story read aloud on cassette tape by Colleen Dewhurst in the 1980s I loved it. When I first saw the short-story on film in 1987 by director Gabriel Alex I loved it. And now, what a joy it is to see this Academy Award winning film on BluRay Disc, in glorious high definition, and with new and improved subtitles. My VHS tape copy of this film is the only one I couldn't bring myself to pass onto Goodwill through the years -- even though it's been years since I've owned a VCR. But now it can go.
The story begins long ago when the two daughters of the man who founded this religious order (no sign of their mother) were young women -- and then it picks up much later, when the interwoven stories of their faith, their daily lives, and their loves come back full-circle in ways that lead more to gratitude than to regret. Yes it's slow, but to tell this story any other way would be like trying to make a souffle in a Suzy Homemaker Easy Bake Oven. And even though in the old story, the tortoise won the race, in this short-story and film, the tortoise also gets turned into a delicious soup! I guess you can't win them all. Eat some Danish crepes, pour yourself some good, strong, black Danish coffee, and then watch this film! You will be glad you did.