Babette's Feast
House Church Central Goes to the Movies

A film by Gabriel Axel. MGM Enterrtainment. Featuring Stephane Audran

Here is a film about a small Danish church fellowship that has been dealing with the death of its leader in a harsh, coastal environment. We meet each of the church members and soon discover that all is not well between them -- petty jealousies, old grudges, and other signs of pain are among them, but they continue their meetings.

In the midst of this comes Babette, who we eventually learn is a epicurean Parisian chef who is on the run from the chaos of the French Revolution. She applies for the job of being their cook, and is given the job only because she is willing to work for shelter but no wages. The quickly learns to prepare the meals the way that the people had become accustomed and she builds strong, new ties with the people.

Suddenly she is notified that she has unexpectedly won a lottery. She asks for the privilege of preparing a fine meal, and her request is grated. As she prepares for a visit to France to obtain the ingredients, the people are greatly worried that Babette will not return -- but return she does along with huge crates of fancy, unusual ingredients that frighten the people into thinking that she is going to prepare a witches brew of some kind. But as good sports, they come to the meal and are delighted. A soldier visiting the town also attends, and it turns out that he has had Babette's food in France and he furnishes an explanation of each delightful course as it is brought to the table. And the conversation among the diners starts to change; old wounds are healed, relationships are mended.

When the feast is over, the people wonder what Babette will do with the rest of the fortune that she won in the lottery, only to be told that Babette had spent the entire amount for the ingredients of the feast they had just enjoyed. The feast was, in fact, a sacrificial gift that she happily bestowed on these special people!

This film brings lessons to house churches and other small fellowships that have started to experience the stress of long associations and petty grievances. The food itself is a mere vehicle, but the self-sacrificing actions of Babette is the cause of the healing of the fellowship. The film is in Danish with English subtitle, so it takes some concentration and patience. But it is a delightful movie that brings us to a very different time and culture to learn lessons that are still relevant today.

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