Saturday, November 08, 2008

Reading Movies

I like foreign films. Sometimes I suspect that they are not as good as they seem - maybe the translations make the dialog sound smarter or the locales feel more exotic or the fresh faces are just, well, refreshing - or maybe the crummy foreign films are not released in the US. Anyway, not too often do I find one I don't like.

Last night I watched "Babette's Feast" which is based on a novel by Karen Blixen (aka Isak Dinesen). The only name I recognized from the cast was Bibi Andersson as I have seen her in Bergman films, although Babbette (Stephane Audran) looked familiar. Twenty years old, the film felt older, like a Bergman film although it was directed by Gabriel Axel, who also wrote the screenplay.

Briefly, the movie is about two elderly sisters who have carried on their father's work, ministering to the needy and maintaining the church he founded. In their youth, each sister has a brush with romance but the suitors are turned away. Later, one ex-suitor sends the sisters Babette, a refugee from the French Revolution. She willingly serves the sisters in their desolate outpost on the sea in Jutland. Many years later, Babette wins the lottery. The sisters expect they will lose Babette. Babette offers to prepare a feast to celebrate what would have been the sisters' father's 100th birthday. The remaining church members are invited, a surprise visitor arrives, and the feast transforms them all.

This is a quiet film, with religious overtones and no big climax, but the themes are large. It doesn't follow any formula, but the ending is very satisfying.

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