I watched Babette’s Feast again last night. For those of you who have not yet seen it, I must point out that this film is very appropriate for this time of year. Netflix it, or get it out of the library, immediately!
In fact, a viewing before Thanksgiving will cause you to appreciate the experience of an extravagantly delicious meal all the more. Especially if you can relate to the kind of daily deprivation the little Danish religious community in the film was so committed to–the kind of deprivation that makes a meal cooked with real butter into an amusement park for the senses.
Perhaps you could attempt–just as all but one of the movie’s dinner guests do–to speak not one word about the food and drink while you are partaking of it. Every time you feel like exclaiming about how delicious everything is, just find something to say about the weather. This will drive your chef crazy and require much discipline on your part.
But really, what would be the point? Is it to deny that the pleasures of this world exist? To pretend that you are impervious to its temporal joys? To refuse a generous gift from someone who wants to bless you with his or her resources and artistry?
Surely it’s much better for us to simply give the abundance we experience due reverence and recognition. To acknowledge it with gratitude. After all, we are the recipients of generous gifts, are we not?
If I say much more, I will have shared too much about the book by Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen, also the author of Out of Africa) and/or its brilliant movie adaptation. The movie is rich with symbolism and messaging and though we attempted a short discussion last night, the conversation generated by the film could have gone on for hours.
“One message of the film is that giving of one’s self is salvific, that when we share the gifts we have been given with others, it is powerful enough to save ourselves and others from alienation and brokenness.”
And another theme here, in a speech delivered by the one “outsider” dining at Babette’s feast:
Mercy and truth have met together. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.
Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness believes he must make choices in this life.
He trembles at the risks he takes. We do know fear. But no. Our choice is of no importance.
There comes a time when our eyes are opened and we come to realize that mercy is infinite.
We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude.
Mercy imposes no conditions.
And lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us.
And everything we rejected has also been granted.
Yes, we even get back what we rejected.
For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.
Righteousness and bliss seem like odd bedfellows, don’t they?
This short paragraph could be dissected for ages.
If you haven’t yet seen the movie, aren’t you now just a little curious?
The film’s in Danish with English subtitles, with a bit of French thrown in.
So you’ll have the added bonus of feeling very sophisticated while watching.
If you’re wishing this could have been the subject of one of your college essays, no worries. I’ve got a writing assignment for you.
Question 1: In the context of the above speech, delivered by the General, what do the following statements mean?
a. Mercy and truth have met together; and
b. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.
Or answer this question:
Question 2: Who or what does Babette represent to her new community? In what ways is she different? What kind of transformation does she inspire? How does she do this?
I can’t wait to see your responses!