1. The names of the two women, Martina and Philippa, refer to Martin Luther and Phillip Melanchthon, two Protestant reformers. How do their names symbolically connect them with all followers of Christ? (Throughout the film they and the pastor's other followers are connected with a particular emphasis within the Church on withdrawal from the world, purity of life, and denial of the flesh.)
2. Note the opening shot of the film--particularly the broad expanse of the ocean. It (and other bodies of water) will later be used as a metaphor for describing God's "paths" and his Providence. The opening shot of the fish makes use of a conventional Christian symbol. Both of these opening scenes serve as foreshadowing.
3. The film is structured around flashbacks. Which characters have flashbacks? What do all the flashbacks have in common? How does this structure undergird the theme of the spiritual significance of life choices? How does this structure relate to the film's theme of God's gracious Providence in human lives?
4. The words to the hymn "Jerusalem, my heart's true home" appear so many times that the hymn becomes a motif. By the end of the film, what is the significance of the hymn's words? There is also mention several times of the importance of the heart ("the hidden regions of the heart"). How does this tie in with the hymn?
5. There will later be several parallels between the disciples worship service around the table along with the Captain and the feast around that same table many years later. What do the parallels suggest that the characters have learned in the intervening years?
6. Note the pastor-father's speech to Philippa in the scene when she has rejected Achille Papin: "They are wide, his paths; no river is like a rivulet." What does this comment mean?
7. Later on in the film when we discover Babette's secret, you will look back at her first set of English cooking instructions and see a delicious irony. What kind of irony is it, and how does it relate to the film's theme?
8. What is the method of Babette's coming into such a large sum of money? How does this seem to contradict the theme of Providence in the film? Actually, does it contradict or does it confirm that theme?
9. Why are the pastor's followers so afraid of eating the food that Babette prepares? What does this fear reveal about their attitude toward the world and their general attitude of religious denial?
10. What affect does the feast have on those who attend--the followers who have fallen into discord, the General who is re-examining his life, the two sisters, and Babette herself?
11. The title indicates that the feast is important (as does its parallels to the earlier scene and the fact that all the principal characters are in some way represented). What does the feast commemorate? Is the number of people present at the feast significant? Does the feast allude to a very important event or events in the Christian tradition? What important themes are addressed in the General's speech at the feast?
12. How does the theme of art and artistry relate to various characters and events in this film? Does one sort of art seem to be honored over another in man's eyes? In God's eyes?
13. What is the significance of Babette's being a foreigner? Of her being French? Of her being a servant?
14. On some level, can Babette's character be interpreted as a kind of Christ-figure? In what ways?
15. How might the snuffed and smoking candle featured at the end of the film be symbolic? How does it relate to the Christian paradox of finding something only by giving something away?