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Food on Film: Babette's Feast (1987)

Directed and adapted screenplay by Gabriel Axel, based on the novel by Karen Blixen

Published 29 June 2015

For us city-dwellers where anything and everything is accessible at any time, Babette’s Feast may be a sobering watch as the themes explored are at the total opposite end of the spectrum. As a food lover whose life revolves around what exciting thing I want to eat next, this film got me a little agitated.

But don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad film, on the contrary, Babette’s Feast won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film (Denmark) in 1988. But what I struggled with was the idea of living without any of life’s simple pleasures – how can a life be truly experienced if you choose a rigid and pious life?

Set in a remote Danish village in the 19th century, we see two sisters live an austere life devoted to their father, the local minister and their church, despite having opportunities to marry and leave the closed off community. Fast forward years later, their father has since passed away and they take in French refugee, Babette Hersant, who agrees to work as their servant. After finding she won the lottery, Babette repays the sisters for their kindness and offers to cook a French meal for them and their equally god-fearing friends.

So, I love Babette. She wins the lottery and blows it on a feast to end all feasts. She cooks for them and doesn’t even have the pleasure of dining with them, but you can see that she’s loving every minute preparing it. She treats her guests to an incredibly excessive night of food and drink, which at first, they have no appreciation for. Starting with Blini Demidoff au Caviar (buckwheat cakes with caviar) paired with Veuve Clicquot Champagne and ending with Baba au Rhum avec les Figues (rum infused yeast cake with dried figs) and coffee, we see the hardened diners’ faces melt by the end of the meal – finally seeing life in glorious high-definition colour from a grey existence of black and white.

Food on Film: Episode 2

Babette’s Feast (1987) Directed and adapted screenplay by Gabriel Axel, based on a the novel by Karen Blixen


Good for those who enjoy

A slower-paced film with the reward of seeing food conquer all.


Scene to look out for

Babette’s face when shown how to prepare their daily, never-changing meal of smoked fish gruel made of stale bread and water. Mmm, delicious!

We rate it

3 out of 5


Viewing Accompaniment

Rum Baba with Red Hill Berries

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