Babette as Christ Figure
The film Babette's Feast provides an interesting look into both the literal and figurative aspects of Christianity. The significance of the title Babette's Feast and the feast itself are perhaps the most important dimensions of the film to explore. Before investigating these topics in full, it is necessary to begin with some background observations. The main character Babette, although an outsider, comes into the lives of two devoutly Christian sisters as their maid and cook. She serves them cheerfully and faithfully, learning the islands' culinary style in order to please Martina and Philippa. As time goes on, she receives a large sum of money from the French lottery and decides to use it to prepare a huge feast, honoring the father of the two sisters. Thus, the words "Babette's feast" are introduced.
There is much significance in the fact that Babette is the one to prepare this feast. The feast was to be simple, not extravagant, but Babette resolves to prepare a feast of extraordinary proportions in honor of all that the sisters have done for her. Moreover, it is important to note that Babette is not only a foreigner, but also a servant. Almost immediately, the audience can identify her as a Christ-figure just as Christ, a foreigner, came in and served those around Him, so did Babette. Babette is also like Christ in her unselfish sacrifice of everything she had for the benefit of others. She spent her entire ten thousand francs on this meal This selfless love is indicative of the kind of Christian virtue that the villagers need to implement into their own lives. Thus, Babette acts as a humble example for them to follow.
The parallel between Babette and Christ becomes even more evident in the fact that twelve people are invited to enjoy the feast. This could easily be likened to the twelve disciples sharing the Last Supper with Christ. Acting as Christ did on that night, Babette willingly serves the guests. It might be possible to also draw the conclusion that Babette is the agent of healing to these people. She offers them all she has, and by her example, shows them how to live out the Christian values they outwardly hold in their lives. These somewhat surface observations do seem to explain the importance of the film's title.
The magnitude of the feast itself is another necessary venue to explore. As noted before, the feast could be likened to the Last Supper of Christ. This parallel becomes increasingly obvious as the audience sees the effect that the feast has on those that attend. Although the meal seems extravagant, even scary, to the guests, it initiates the healing process within the villagers that have attended. The villagers expected only bad thing to come from the foreign meal, but they find that the food is good and are even able to enjoy it. With the General's direction, the sheltered villagers find the value and goodness within such a fine meal. The dinner quickly becomes a success and a wonderful time for remembrance of the dear old minister. The contemplation of the minister's teachings and their personal faith, aided by the good mood the dinner causes, helps the villagers to resolve old differences in a Christian manner. They are able to forgive and forget the injustices of their neighbors and find joy in each other once more. In fact, the meal ends with a time of praise and rejoicing outside the sisters' house as the guests return to their homes again.
Thus, Babette's Feast portrays not only a literal level of Christian forgiveness and joy, but also a figurative parallel to Christ Himself and the example He left for those that follow. The significance of the title and the feast itself becomes obvious as the audience strives to see the greater overall theme of the film.
May 4, 1998