In 1987 the art-house hit that one absolutely had see was the Academy Award winning Danish film Babette’s Feast, with its thematic blend of spirituality and food. Babette’s Feast begins with a long prologue establishing the pious lives of a pair of sisters living in a remote village on the Danish coast in the 19th century. About a third of the way into the film Babette shows up requesting refuge from the violence in Paris. The whole film is really just a build up to the amazing French meal Babette eventually prepares for the sisters and what is left of the village’s small congregation. As Babette’s extraordinary meal begins the congregation nervously start eating, worried that the sensory pleasures of the food will distract them from their religious duties.
Looking back, Babette’s Feast is structurally flawed and slightly indulgent, although it did explore the idea of food’s importance to mind, body and soul way before such an idea became an art-house cliché. Babette’s Feast does take its time arriving at the climatic meal but it is a sequence of exquisite food porn balanced with understated humour and gentle sentiment.
Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 328, 2009