Babette’s Feast (1987)

GABRIEL AXEL

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBBB

Original title:  Babettes Gaestebud

Denmark, 1987.  Panorama Film A/S, Nordisk Film, Det Danske Filminstitut, Rungstedlundfonden.  Screenplay by Gabriel Axel, based on the story by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by , , .  Film Editing by .  

The achingly beautiful simplicity of this film, adapted from the story by Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen), is merely where its charm begins. Two elderly, unmarried sisters, the daughters of the late revered minister of their Danish fishing village, take into their home the mysterious Babette, a French woman (played by ) who barely escapes the Franco-Prussian war with her life, and who serves them as cook and friend faithfully for years and gives her employers ample opportunity to take care of their philanthropic duties.

When Babette comes into some good fortune after being with them for more than a decade, she decides to throw a dinner party to celebrate, which the piously Lutheran women allow since they are afraid of losing her and want to show their appreciation for all years of devoted service.  What results is a sumptuous feast that the leading members of the community fear for its sensuous extravagance, but which ends up producing a hilarious effect on these emotionally reserved people.

The film plays out like a gorgeous tone poem , exploding with gorgeous, tender feeling in its last third during the subtly hilarious finale. Audran is superb, and Gabriel Axel’s direction couldn’t possibly be better.  and , who played young adulterous lovers in Dreyer’s Day of Wrath, play aged adulterous lovers here.

The Criterion Collection:  #665

Academy Award:  Best Foreign Language Film

Golden Globe Award Nomination:  Best Foreign Language Film

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