Despite having heard Babette’s Feast raved about by a lot of different people, I had never drummed up the motivation to see it myself. Here’s the description from HuluPlus: “Two devout and elderly sisters allow their cook, a French refugee, to prepare a feast in honor of their late father’s 100th birthday, despite their spiritual concerns over the sensuality and decadence of French cuisine.” It doesn’t exactly sound thrill-a-minute, does it? Of course, the best movies often aren’t high concept and defy quick and easy descriptions, and I knew that would likely be the case with this one.

And indeed it was. The religious aspects of the film were pretty fascinating, as I have a Protestant (but not pietistic) background myself. I have to admit I paused the film at one point just to look up who these folks were, as the subtitles kept calling them “puritan” but the actual Puritan movement is generally considered to be an English and American thing, not Danish. Anyway, that’s kind of beside the point, but I needed to locate this theology for my own understanding – they’re a pietistic sect, a group of believers not affiliated with a larger body, led by a charismatic spiritual leader.


The minister of this little group of Jutland pietists is already dead for most of the movie, but his influence continues to guide his two unmarried daughters, who rejected worldly suitors in order to serve his ministry and continue it after his death, to an aging and dwindling group of adherents. Then Babette arrives on their doorstep, with a letter from one of the sister’s former suitors, a Parisian opera singer – she’s a refugee from counterrevolutionary activity in Paris, and becomes their housekeeper and cook in exchange for safety. Flashforward fourteen years, and the sisters and their remaining congregants plan a celebration in honor of what would have been their minister’s 100th birthday. Babette begs one favor: to prepare a real French meal for the celebration instead of the plain, bland food that the sisters have had her cooking for fourteen years.