Babette's Feast (Gabriel Axel, 1987)

What's it about? In a small, 19th century Danish religious community, two pious sisters take in Babette, a refugee from the French Civil War. In time, when good fortune comes her way, Babette repays their kindness with the preparation of a sumptuous feast, but such extravagance sits uneasily with their frugal, Puritanical lifestyle.

Is it any good? As things turned out, the day after I watched this, I went to a wedding and I was struck by the similarity between the two things. To start with, there was some boring prayers, far too much singing and stilted conversations with old people. But in both cases, once the food and drink appeared, things got a lot more interesting and enjoyable, and they both ended up with people loosening up, smooching and dancing round in a ring. Which is always fun. And, like Babette, I ended up spending far, far too much money.

Anything else I should know? Fans of the film, not to mention God, might be slightly irritated by my glib description above, so just in case I get struck down from on high, it is only fair to say that this film is widely admired for its Christian themes and considered spiritually significant. As articles here and here explain, there is plenty to ruminate on if this sort of thing interests you. You can contemplate the symbolism of the fishes, the bread and the wine throughout, consider the relative virtues of spiritual versus physical appetites, appreciate the sacrificial themes of the story, or try to map the characters against religious figures. It might also serve as a springboard for discussion about the impact (good and bad) religious faith has on communities. So, plenty to chew on. Speaking of chewing, you could also simply enjoy it as a 'food' movie and revel in the mouth-watering array of dishes that parade across the screen in the final half hour. You may even be inspired to try preparing some of the dishes yourself.

What does the Fonz think? Won't be to everyone's taste, but you never know, if you take a leap of faith, you may find it repaid.

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