Title: Babette’s Feast
Babette’s Feast is a Danish film that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1987. It’s about two elderly sisters who, when they were younger, each had the opportunity to leave their tiny fishing village for the wider world. But they both chose to stay and serve their father and his small parish. When they are older and carrying on their father’s ministry a French woman, Babette, is sent to them for asylum after her family is killed as a result of the Paris Commune. Babette makes a life for herself in the village, despite being Catholic, and lives there quietly for many years until one day when she wins the lottery. Babette decides to use the money to put on a lavish French dinner for the sisters and their remaining elderly parishioners. The quiet and uplifting way the dinner unfolds needs to be seen to be appreciated. It is the heart of the film and brings everything to a satisfying conclusion.
Ages 12 and up
The combination of a foreign film in Danish with subtitles, along with the subject matter of a bunch of old people eating dinner in a remote fishing village in the 19th century could be seen on the surface as boring for most kids. However, if they have an appreciation for a good story and an understanding that things don’t have to explode to make it a worthwhile movie they could be in for a pleasant surprise.
The boy who assists Babette as a server is seen sneaking a drink of wine. There are a number of live animals intended for the dinner that we later see already butchered, or being plucked, for the feast. While this is presented in a very matter-of-fact way vegetarians or children sensitive to animals may be disturbed.
Babette’s Feast has always been one of my all-time favorite films. After I had written my post about those favorite films it was on my mind. The family was planning to watch some Star Wars as a treat for me on Father’s Day and I jokingly announced that I was changing my choice and insisting that we watch Babette’s Feast instead. Aside from the fact that both films are set “a long time ago” they are pretty much polar opposites in every other regard. When Merran saw that I was only half joking and intended to see it through she got on board since she’s always enjoyed the film as well.
This next part is key to your children’s enjoyment of the movie. As we watched it Merran and I explained the subtler details of the relationships, how Protestants and Catholics viewed each other, and pointed out some of the storytelling devices used by both the author of the original story, Karen Blixen, and the filmmakers. By the time the story got to the dinner we sat back and let everything fall into place. When it was over and the kids announced that they both loved the movie Merran and I were both a little surprised at their genuine appreciation for the story.
Seriously, a Danish film about a bunch of old people eating dinner.
Because I’m always looking for something new that we can all enjoy as a family I sometimes take a risk and push the kids into something they’re not ready for. I was fully prepared for Babette’s Feast to be one of those films. It’s really not for everyone. But if you love it and you think your kids might be ready (a love of Anne of Green Gables and/or Little House on the Prairie is a good indicator) then I think you should take a chance and hopefully you too will be pleasantly surprised.
Do you agree or disagree with my assessment or have something to add?
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Let me know what you think.