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4.5 out of 5 stars
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Showing 1-10 of 17 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
It's September 1871 in a remote part of Jutland in Denmark - and on a rain-sodden night - a young French woman dressed in hooded garb knocks on the door of elderly sisters Martine and Filippa. The serenely beautiful ladies live frugally and quietly in tiny houses high above the cliffs in a deeply Christian Community - generously feeding the elderly of the flock every single day with hot food culled from their basic cooking skills.

The woman is Babette Hersant - once a worshipped culinary chef in Café Anglais in Paris - and she bears a letter from an elderly French Opera Singer called Achille Papin. He has sent Babette to Denmark by boat to escape political rioting in the capitol city that has robbed her of everything including a husband. Papin visited the sisters when they were youthful beauties many decades back - and lost his heart to Filippa's angelic voice (words from a duet they sing in a clinch together titles this review). But because of fear and entrenched Christian beliefs - Filippa could not bear what their burgeoning love was doing to her soul - so she had her Pastor father send him away (and silence his singing). But Papin remembered her kindness too - so he has sent the broken Babette into their care.

14 years pass and Babette has now worked her way into the hearts of the kindly sisters, the local grocer and even the fishermen who can't pass off rancid meat or old fish on the food-knowledgeable Babette. She even knows where the herbs are on the wild grass stretches that overlook the Sea.

Babette's only link with France is a lottery ticket a kind relative keeps renewing for her year after year. And one day she gets a letter - she's won 10,000 Francs. To their astonishment Babette doesn't want to squander the money on clothes or fine things - but instead payback their kindness by cooking the austere community a proper French Dinner in honour of their Pastor Father whose anniversary is approaching. And Babette wants to do it her way. The sisters agree but have no idea of the opulence that is going to invade their linen-covered table and remain tearfully terrified of its corruptive nature. But great wine, champagne, real turtle soup, sumptuous cooking and divine food mellow the bickering and tetchy elderly community and bring about a deep healing - even a spiritual renaissance of sorts...

Released in the summer of 1987 and directed by Gabriel Axel (a Danish language movie with English subtitles) - the film is based on a story by Karen Blixen (aka Isak Dinesen) and its full title is "Karen Blixen's Babette's Gaestebud". It was Denmark's first Oscar Win for a foreign language film (also took the BAFTA).

Special mention should be made of the 'young' sisters whose back-story of 'lost love' gives the film its beating heart. A dashing Hussar called Lorens Lowenhielm is stationed in a Garrison Town living a life of tedium and gambling. His father feels he needs to be 'sent away' - so ships the blue-uniformed young man off to his aunt in Norre Vosburg in Jutland. One afternoon out of horseback he sees his redemption from creditor notes and parental lectures - the beautiful young Martine. He immediately tries to woe both her and the pious community who surrender her at every moment - but soon becomes painfully aware that his needs for luxury and easy living far outweigh his needs for Martine. So Lorens leaves and marries a countess with wealth and position. But he has of course made the mistake of a lifetime.

Now an old man but still a dashing officer - he is invited to the feast - and recognizes the extraordinary cooking skills from a past encounter in Paris (like a warm glow from the past). But more than that - he fills old Martine's heart with joy by telling her that he has always loved her - and not even the physicality of years or body will keep them apart spiritually (his declaration of love to her at the end is one of the loveliest pieces of dialogue in cinema).

I wish I could say the Artificial Eye BLU RAY is a triumph - far from it. Despite its BFI logo - the print has specs of dirt on it, lines showing on occasion and a fair amount of natural fuzzy grain. It does look cleaned up in some places - beautiful even - but the BLU RAY improvement is slight. It's defaulted to 1.85:1 so fills the entire screen but there's no getting away from the fact that its good rather than great - which given the sumptuous nature of the feast - is so disappointing (docked a star for that). As I say - it does look shockingly clean in places - but anyone expecting frame-by-frame clean up can look elsewhere. There is a short interview in French with Stephane Audran who is intensely proud of the 'masterpiece' they made and Subtitles are in Danish, Swedish, French and English.

"Babette's Feast" is a gentle film - slow and even pious to a point of being farcical. But the good-humour and warmth will etch its way into your heart - and after you witness the feast - be prepared to raid the cookie jars in your kitchen with a passion.

As young Papin's heart soars and he tells young Filippa she has 'the voice of joy' - there are moments in "Babette's Feast" when you are in complete lip-smacking agreement with the rotund Frenchman. A beautiful life-affirming movie and then some...
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VINE VOICEon 28 February 2006
Spend all the winnings on a gourmet dinner for a dozen of ascetic Danish puritans ? No, I didn't think so. But that's exactly what refugee French chef Babette does in this unusual, yet appealing, film about life in a remote Jutland village in the 19th Century. "Babette's Feast" has a strong philosophical theme running through it as the lives of the two saintly spinsters are held up in contrast to some of the more urbane and exciting characters they met in their youth. The film is strong on characterisation and is well acted throughout ,dealing with themes like faith,loyalty, love and duty superbly well. The Feast when it is appears is like a gift of love from God Himself to His faithful flock. A memorable film.
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on 20 May 2002
I remember reluctantly going to the cinema to watch this one. A peculiar story about two old sisters and a feeding frenzy certainly did not appeal to me to start with. How wrong I was...
After more than 5 years, I still remember the extraordinary sensual pleasure that this film conveyed. The whole film, down to the creation of the feast itself was a delight of the senses. Brilliant cinematography, stunning colours and visuals. Food frenzy indeed, especially for the food-lovers among us. Chocolat, only ten times more truthful and vibrant. Recommended.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 2 January 2013
Having just seen this film again in the cinema, for the first time since its VHS incarnation, it strikes me as still being the ultimate film about food. Never has the culinary art been represented with such grace and succulence as here, not even in Julie and Julia. This is partly down to the warming of the tonal palette at this stage of the film, and also its pacing - everything has been quite austere up to this point, but then suddenly it becomes a sensual delight, a kind of gastronomic equivalent of a street parade, where one just gazes in wonder at the ever more extraordinary creations. It also has to do with Stephane Audran, at least for the grace part, as she adds a note of sheer elegance with her amazing bearing and features, both finely etched and full of humanity. Apparently the role was initially offered to Catherine Deneuve (see wikipedia!), but much as I love Deneuve I think Audran is just right, and furthermore she was always trying to cook a meal in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie 17 years earlier, and failing, so it's nice to see her succeed here with such style! The film is brilliant in other visual aspects too - the two sisters are perfectly cast in their slightly timid kindness and purity, the interiors make wonderful scenes reminiscent of Dutch - or Danish - genre painting in their careful composition and beautiful light, and the kitchen boy carrying in a board of fruit looks as if he might easily have been intercepted by Caravaggio, while offsetting the elderly guests poignantly. Babette's treatment of him and the coachman adds a further dimension of kindness to her role, and discipline too ...

Where I think it falls a little short is if you compare it to The Dead, which forms a parallel to it in so many ways. Again, two sisters host a meal in a historical setting quite close to this one, and the meal itself is much less distinguished. But the source novella is rather deeper and it shows up the rather plot-driven essence of Isak Dinesen's story. Both films focus on the meal, with a second high point coming just after in the form of a musical interlude. The tenor singing against Angelica Huston's listening head is a fantastic moment of cinema, and I found Bodil Kjer's chorale singing at the piano similarly moving in Babette's Feast. However in The Dead this ushers in a final section that amazes and uplifts the viewer, a bit like reaching a mountain peak only to discover an even higher one still to climb. It really is deeply moving in the light of everything that has gone before. In Babette's Feast the last act comes down to a plateau, and the final scenes are slightly banal in comparison with what we have just seen. In the end it doesn't quite get beyond the sentimental pieties, not really having anywhere to go. Having said that, there is a lot to enjoy in the meal and its build-up, this section itself being a bit like something delicious wrapped in pastry, but perhaps it could have done with a bit less pastry - unlike Babette's "cailles en sarcophage" ...
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on 27 February 2014
I didn't mind it was sub-titled. slow attimes, yet captivating. it directs the mind and intelligence to embrace what that period of time was like. Some of the younger generation may find it too slow for their liking, but bear with the film to the end, and absorb the messages said in the sub-titles
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on 1 June 2011
« Le Festin de Babette » est un film qui est basé sur une femme française qui s'échappe de la France afin d' éviter le désordre et la violence en France à cette époque. Elle a perdu son mari et ses fils, et elle n'a aucun autre choix que de demander aux deux saeurs danoises pour un emploi. Elle sert les saeurs, Martina et Philippa, pendant quatorze ans, et puis elle a l'opportunité de retourner en France parce qu'elle gagne la loterie. Si elle garde l'argent, elle pourra le dépenser en achetant un billet pour la France, mais elle veut préparer un grand repas français pour les danois, bien qu'ils soient hésitants à manger un repas étrange et exotique. C'est une histoire sur les choix difficiles, l'amitié, et le conflit entre la tradition et les nouvelles idées. Dans ce film, il s'agit de la question : quel est le plus important, l'argent ou le bonheur ? C'est un peu étrange qu'un film français soit en danois, mais c'est une bonne histoire.

D'abord, le film a été tourné en 1987, donc on doit tenir compte du fait qu'il n'y avait pas les mêmes innovations de technologie qu'il y a aujourd'hui. Le metteur en scène n'a pas mis l'accent sur l'action. Par exemple, quand une des saeurs a un rêve sur les ingrédients exotiques et le feu d'enfer, ce n'est pas aussi vraisemblable que c'aurait pu être si le film avait été fait aujourd'hui. C'est un film très intéressant avec les thèmes importants, mais ce n'est pas un film de suspense ou d'action comme la plupart des films maintenant. C'est plutôt un film qui raconte une histoire et un mode de vie. Le film nous donne un petit regard sur le monde d'autrefois et sur une vie très différente de la notre.

De plus, tous les acteurs et actrices sont très rodés et franchement efficaces. Leurs interprétations des rôles sont très réalistes et reflètent à l'époque et à la vie religieuse. Cependant, ils ne montrent pas beaucoup d'émotions. Je ne sais pas s'ils doivent être sérieux et stoïques, mais ils ne montrent pas de grand chagrin, sauf un peu quand on rencontre Babette pour la première fois. Néanmoins, c'est un bon film avec des leçons importantes sur l'amitié et la vraie famille.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 August 2011
A tale of passions and art thwarted and brought to life, with lovely photography, and solid performances.

The charming story of two spinster sisters in a dour, religious Danish town who take in a French political refugee. After years of working for these women, with gratitude and gentleness, but little expressed emotion, the woman (Stephane Audran) uses lottery money she wins not to return to France, or to start her own life, but to create a feast, bringing back her own lost artistry as one of France's great chefs.

In spite of their promise not to get swept up in the food, the locals slowly succumb to it's sublime mix of the sacred and the sensual.

All of this is sweet, interesting, entertaining and well told, but for me there's also something a tiny bit thin about it. It feels like a short story stretched to feature length (which it is), and I didn't find it quite as moving emotionally as I wished. Many like it more than me, but to me it's a lovely, well-told, worthwhile film, but not quite a great one.
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on 19 July 2013
I was delighted to acquire my own copy of this classic film - though a little dated it still is a wonderful, gentle and yet moving depiction of times gone by - a gentler world.
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on 6 July 2013
had Babette's Feast on standard DVD, now purchased and have my grubby large hands the blu-ray. differently a classic. don't worry about the danish audio track as sub titles work a treat.

the photography is excellent and acting is spot on. the sets for the village and house makes it all real

get the blu-ray and run it on a large screen via a projector
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on 6 February 2016
An old favourite, which I can now enjoy again. Far better quality than our original TV download many years ago.
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