Having recently rewatched (and loved anew) Gabriel Axel's beautiful parable, Babette's Feast, I've had my eyes peeled for the opportunity to share it with y'all. So when I stumbled across today's blog post over at The Criterion Collection and saw this, I was just thrilled:
In celebration of the eighty-eighth annual Academy Awards on Sunday, we’re gazing back on some of our favorite best foreign-language film Oscar winners with this week’s free Criterion festival on Hulu.
The Free Festival list is a veritable cornucopia of fascinating choices -- Kurosawa's Rashomon, Camus’ Black Orpheus, Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly and Fanny and Alexander, Costa-Gavras’ Z, and Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty -- and you could surely share an entertaining evening with any of them. But the name that really jumped out at me this time around was the aformentioned Babette's Feast.
Thanks to the festival, it's available for free right now on HULU (with ads). And that means HULU+ has it (sans ads). So does FANDOR (if you're a subscriber) and AMAZON INSTANT($). And here's The Criterion Collection's description:
At once a rousing paean to artistic creation, a delicate evocation of divine grace, and the ultimate film about food, the Oscar-winning Babette’s Feast is a deeply beloved treasure of cinema. Directed by Gabriel Axel and adapted from a story by Isak Dinesen, it is the lovingly layered tale of a French housekeeper with a mysterious past who brings quiet revolution in the form of one exquisite meal to a circle of starkly pious villagers in late nineteenth-century Denmark. Babette’s Feast combines earthiness and reverence in an indescribably moving depiction of sensual pleasure that goes to your head like fine champagne.
Recapping some thoughts from my latest viewing (via Letterboxd)...
This time around, I was particularly struck by the way in which both sisters' stories come full circle. The first (and most obvious) example the moment when Martine and Löwenhielm stand beside the coat rack, and he (as a young hussar) tells here that "Many things are impossible." Later, he stands beside the same coats and the same woman and says that "This evening I have learned, my dear, that in this beautiful world of ours, all things are possible."
The second, though, is when Filippa tells Babette that "In Paradise you will be the great artist that God meant you to be, and how you will delight the angels!" Because in a real way, she's saying that to herself (and repeating what Achille Papin told her so many years before). And comforting herself far more than she's comforting Babette.
I was also really struck by the vital role General Löwenhielm plays in everyone's transformation. It is surely true that Babette is the key agent, and that without her, nothing would happen. But Lowenheim's really just as important.
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.