Babettes Feast Camille Gangelhoff FYSEM- V. Deo 10/26/99 May my food my body maintain. . . give thanks for all things to the Lord I believe that everything happens for a reason.
Happen, and happen at certain times for a reason also. The movie, Babettes Feast, helped confirm my beliefs. This movie started out focused on Martina and Phillipa with their father, the pastor. The movie quickly shows his silent dominance over his two daughters. He keeps them under his wings until the day he dies, and then even after that they continue to live in his shadow. Everything he preached is believed and followed by them and members of their community.
The father taught them that the only thing which we may take with us from our life on earth are those things which we have given away. Because of their father, the two devoted their lives to carrying on his preaching and his kindness towards the other followers. So instead of marrying, they decided to devote their lives to God and to their late father. By doing this they would take away from earth exactly what they gave while on earth. Their dedication to their father and the church made them underestimate the power of love and marriage.
Its not like these women did not have chances to marry, or take different courses in their lives. Martina was extremely beautiful and caught the eye of every young man, but the sternness of her father, and her own aloofness kept them from pursuing her. A prime example would be, Lorens Loewenhielm, the officer who met her via his rich older aunt. Martina was very interested in him, but never gave him any encouragement. Phillipa was blessed with the voice of an angel, while singing in church she caught the eye/ear of world renowned French tenor Achille Papin. Not only does he fall in love with her, he wanted to make her into a star in France.
Yet again, a suitor is rebuffed by the daughters. In both cases the daughters did not openly reject their suitors, instead they were aloof and acted uninterested. In the case of Phillipa she asked her father to inform Papin that she no longer wanted to take music lessons from him. There is no clear reason why they turned down all their suitors. Though there are many possible reasons.
The girls may not have found the men attractive and suitable to settle down with, maybe they just werent interested in men, perhaps their true calling was God and helping others, though it could possibly be because their father had told them never to marry. He told them how love and lust was evil and should be avoided. How it can only lead to pain, so instead of taking chances they never chose to love. In either case they turned down choices to remain with their father and with God. The movie then fast forwards to a stormy night when Babette, a French refugee, came to them for help.
A good friend of hers and former acquaintance of theirs, Achille Papin, recommended the sisters to Babette. Papin knew the kindness of the two and knew they would take a stranger into their home, especially a stranger in need of shelter and love. In France, Babette had been a world class chef. She loved to cook, it was her passion. When she began to work for the sisters (for free) she no longer was able to cook gourmet meals.
She was only given a budget to prepare dried cod and ale-bread, the staple diet for those who lived in Jutland. Even though she could only prepare simple, cheap, and rather unpalatable dishes, she still put her heart and soul into each dish. Her love of food was apparent if you watched her cook, she took time to add spices which she picked herself or had specially ordered to the corner store to add to the normally bland dishes and made them her own. The differences in the food was apparent when Babette was unable to cook the soup for one of the elderly followers, so the sisters prepared the dish instead. The was an obvious look of disappointment on that man when he looked into the dish and realized it was not Babette who had made it.
Her presence with the sisters was apparent all over the community, not just within the walls of their home. Though the movie seemed to have a simple outline and meaning, a closer look is needed to understand all of the meanings. At first it looks as though its just about two repressed sisters living alone with their French maid. Though, when you consider how the movie was made, a deeper understanding is taken. For instance, look at the house the two sisters live in.
From the outside it is just like all the others. White, square, and very boring. On the inside though, it is much different. Unlike all the other houses, this one is very well decorated with fine furniture and artwork. Even though these are poor women, daughters of a preacher they still could afford fine furnishings. It seems that the directors chose to have their house stand out from all the others.
Their house just seems warm and friendly from the interior, unlike all the other homes which have a very cold and sterile look to the interior. The house just emulates the women, it shows their warmth and kindness in every room. The directors also chose to use bleak and simple photography. They chose Jutland as the setting because the scenery is depressing and barren all year round, instead of lively and lush of other areas. The reasoning behind that could easily be because they wanted to show the contrast between the elements surrounding the sisters and the richness of God in their lives.
How they didnt need beautiful scenery to make them happy, they only needed God. It also could be the opposite. The lived on a cliff where there was a very angry seeming ocean crashing into the steep rocks constantly. There was anger there. The bareness could also represent the lack of life in the sisters. They never experienced romance, fun, passion, or excitement.
Their life was much like their surroundings . . . dull. Another meaning in this movie, is the connection between Babette and the sisters.
On one plane they are all left alone without any family. The sisters have lost their only life, their father. Babette was forced to exile her country in a time of war, losing her family to gunfire. They are also alike on another plane. Babette was a great chef in her time, because of war she was forced to deny her great talents.
Even though she lived with the sisters for over twelve years, she never told them of her talents as a chef, she chose not to ever bring it up. Phillipa was also much like Babette, though Phillipa was blessed with a great singing voice. Unlike Babette she was never able to show it off for hundreds of people. She also denied her talents to live a different lifestyle. When Babette won the French lottery of 10,000 francs she decided to both help herself, and help repay those who had helped her when she was the lowest. She decided to create a real French meal, a seven course masterpiece in honor of the pastors 100th birthday.
The sisters agreed to let her create a meal to her liking, because they had lived in Jutland all their lives they were naive about the cuisine in France. To adequately prepare for her meal, Babette had to go to France to order all the necessary ingredients. When the boat came back with all the ingredients, the sisters were shocked, and nervous. There was a pigs head, a live sea turtle, live grouse in a wooden cage, red wine, champagne along with other items they had never seen before. The sisters immediately became worried and believe that Babette was a witch and was preparing a feast to bewitch the good citizens of the community.
When the sisters organized a meeting of all of those who would be attending the feast, they warned them about the contents of the meal, and what it meant to them. They decided that they must not verbally show any emotion or reaction to the food presented. They were to eat it without any reaction of any sort. If they did, that would mean that they were being bewitched. At the feast, the only one not aware of the pact was Lorens Loewenhielm, the general who had first visited the sisters over thirty years before.
He had been stationed in France and was very accustomed to fine food. He knew and appreciated the work that went into it. He savored every bite and commented on it to everyone at the table. Even though no one at the table, besides Lorens Loewenhielm was accustomed to such fine cuisine they soon became aware of what good food they were eating. They devoured every bite, and especially enjoyed the wine and champagne over the water they were used to.
Even though they didnt verbally show their pleasure, you could see it in their faces. In the years that followed the pastors death, the followers had all drifted away from each other. Bickering and fighting had broken out among the followers, everyone was mad at everyone else. It had severely harmed the unity and effectiveness of the group. But after the great meal by Babette the disposition of the follows completely changed. After the meal they were all friendly to each other, they hugged and rejoiced. They even forgave each other for the sins they had committed years before. There seemed to have been a magical experience at that dinner table.
People became happy and lively while eating her wonderful food, the uplifting of spirits and mending of relationships was magical. Some might say it was the celebration of the pastor that brought them together. Though, the most accurate answer, was the meal presented by Babette. She put such love, passion, creativity and made it into a seductive love affair that no one who tasted the food was immune to its powers. They all became part of the food.
There was so much power in the food it healed rifts in the community that had been there for years. Though it may have seemed random that Babette showed up on the sisters doorstep on a stormy night, armed with a letter from Phillipas old beau. It really wasnt, Babette was a necessary part of their lives. Because everything happens for a reason, Babette came to live with the sisters for a reason. During the time Babette came to Jutland the community was in shambles.
After the loss of the pastor faith had begun to dwindle. Though Babette was often a silent attribute she in fact was very powerful in all their lives. She may not have verbally preached to the community, but her food had a message that connected them all. Babette came to Jutland to escape from the war in France. but her presence was much more important than just a housemaid, she also helped the sisters with their charity work. More importantly, she came there to help reunite the community. That was her role in life.
To create beautiful meals, and help that poor community in rural Denmark. Film and Cinema.