Fate or Providence?
In the beginning of the film, the viewer can notice that the themes of Babetteís Feast will center around Christianity. It begins with the opening shot of the film--a broad view of the ocean is presented. Later in the film this idea about bodies of water will be used as a metaphor for describing Godís "paths" and his Providence. The prolonged view of the fish hanging out in the sun also suggests a Christian symbol. These symbols present the atmosphere and setting of the village and the people that live in it.
As an outsider from France, Babette does not exactly follow the careful religious actions of the villagers. One thing that distinguishes her from the others is how she obtained quite a large sum of money. I do not think that the fellow parishioners would approve to her winning the lottery. And to think that she just wanted to spend that money on a French feast! This also is another example of how the theme of Providence is portrayed.
The theme of Providence is supported by how the villagers believed that God would provide for their every need. Babette leaned more on how fate would decide to direct her life and provide for her. She just considered it lucky that she won all that money. The theme of Providence among the pastorís followers is constantly supported by the motif of their hymn "Jerusalem, my heartís true home." They frequently sang their song before meals and when they felt the traditions and ways of the world surrounding them. They were a religious group who always looked beyond their present lives and focused on what ĎJerusalemí will be like in all of its glory. "Jerusalem, my happy home!/ Name ever dear to me;/ When shall my labors have an end,/ In joy, and peace, and thee?" They knew that God would provide for their needs.
Despite being shocked at everything that Babette cooked for the meal, they still accepted the invitation politely and tried to remain true to their religious beliefs during the meal as much as possible. More than anything they wanted Babette to feel accomplished and happy that she is serving the pastorís followers. Even though she obtained the money for the meal by winning the lottery, perhaps Babette did not believe that it was fate; she may have believed that was how God was providing for her needs. Both Babette and the pastorís followers rely on Godís provisions, yet they have different viewpoints of how God is going to supply their needs. So, in a twisted way, the method of how Babette obtained her unusually large sum of money actually does confirm the theme of Providence.
14 May 1998