Food for the body, food for the soul
The more they eat, the lighter they feel. ‘Usually in Bervelaag, people did not speak while they were eating. But somehow, this evening tongues had been loosened’.
Babette’s feast lasts for about 28 minutes in a film that runs for 99. In these 28 minutes, a group of sober Lutherans, her guests – who look like crows in their blacks and greys and come across as children are transformed. Their whole lives they have eaten beer bread soup and fish in order to maintain a body healthy enough to praise the Lord. Today, they have tasted food for the soul.
At Babette’s feast.
Babette came from France to this remote seaside village in Denmark. With the money she won in a lottery, she decided to cook a meal for her two mistresses and the faithful followers of their deceased father, a Lutheran priest to commemorate him on his birthday.
A real French meal. With several courses. And vintage wine.
In the golden light of fire, little, round pastries come out of the oven and Babette settles birds in them, one by one as if putting them to bed. A few minutes later, the sound of crunching as the Parisian returned general bites off the bird’s head. He then sucks out the contents, which startles the staid, collected daughter of the Lutheran priest. Another guest takes his cue from the worldly general for what he must do to consume his dinner, for he has never encountered a plate of food like this before.
The devout Danish Lutherans had feared that Babette’s French dinner would bewitch and harm them and they made a promise to each other and to themselves that they would not taste the food or the wine. As they move from turtle soup on to one more glass of wine and the sacrophage, and further onto the next glass of wine, they forgive each other sins and crimes. Are at the receiving end of God’s grace. Feel a light surrounding them. They are not harmed but healed. They are bewitched, despite themselves.
‘Babette’s Feast’ is a deceptively simple film about a group of devout, strict, Lutherans who are introduced to sensuality through food and wine through an artist. This awakens the latent divinity in them.
There is food in order to function – one downs boterham or stampot to fuel the body that labours for higher purposes – be it the divine or other.
And food that reflects the sublime, plays tricks on the tongue like thaali.
Babette’s guests meet god where they least expect to, around a splendid dinner table, where fire meets meets water, and the body meets the soul.
The link to the trailer of Babette’s Feast is here.