Reflections on Babette's Feast (1987)

These reflections were written in June 2014. The images are from the film and are not my own.

Growing up in a Christian community, the majority of the stories that were told to me dealt with the results of the church and the world crossing. The contrast was always impressive. Sometimes the good character would become corrupted, often the worldly character would convert, but occasionally the worldly character would leave the church unchanged and the good character would remain in the church, having learned the importance of staying pious.

Babette's Feast is a fable-like story that explores this topic with greater nuance then those childhood morality tales. But it also addresses a second more subtle contrast of the church and decadence. What happens when worldly luxury meets humble faithfulness? What is the roll of such artistic extravagance in the church?


This film touches on these issues and more. It gets many things right, is lit with an ordinary beauty, and explores important themes with such balance that there is room for many essays. "There is a steady gathering of emotion, a sense of a larger truth being touched."

It's central message is that summed up in a quote from the film. "Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude. Grace, brothers, makes no conditions and singles out none of us in particular; grace takes us all to its bosom and proclaims general amnesty."


But what that quote misses and what is only lightly touched upon in the film is the cost that such grace requires. A cost that Babette herself freely gave and cost that was given for the grace that we so freely enjoy. That cost begs us to consider when and how such decadence, in life and in the church, should be enjoyed.