Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
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 in Babette, a French woman (Stéphane Audran) who barely escapes the Franco-Prussian war with her life, 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 throughout, 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. Preben Lerdorff Rye and Lisbeth Movin, who played young adulterous lovers in Dreyer’s Day of Wrath, play aged adulterous lovers here.
Screenplay by Gabriel Axel, based on the story by Karen Blixen
Cinematography by Henning Kristiansen
Music by Per Norgaard
Production Design by Sven Wichmann
Film Editing by Finn Henriksen