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Babette's Feast Reflection Paper

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Brett Zambarrano                                                                                                    February 3, 2017

COM 115.5 – A                                                                             Babette’s Feast Reflection Paper

Subtlety and Artistry

        Babette’s Feast is a cinematic experience that is far removed from typical Hollywood blockbusters, yet delivers a message that is just as, if not more poignant than many other films. To begin, I must say that Babette’s Feast was graced with subtlety. Contrary to the blatant exposition and loud effects used in typical big budget movies, Babette’s Feast made use of much more subdued means in conveying its narrative.

Throughout the duration of the movie, symbolisms were frequently used to further emphasize certain character developments or narrative progressions. From the very beginning of Babette’s Feast, a title which seems inspire the idea of lavish food, the audience is ironically provided with the image of dried fish. This contrast in imagery could be appreciated once one is brought to understand one of the central subjects throughout the film: the tension between physical and spiritual experience in the context of religion. At the beginning of the film, Martina and Philippa remain consistent with the extremely conservative religious teachings of their group, and continue to shy away from any sort of physical pleasure. They believed that spiritual pleasure was the only pleasure to be had and that any other sort would be considered an immoral distraction. This mindset, I believe, was imaged by the aforementioned dry fish at the beginning of the film. The life that they were living remained “dry” and bland, which provided a stark contrast for the extravagant feast that appears towards the end of the film.

        Throughout the film we also see subtler meanings that are conveyed with simple symbolism, such as Babette’s washing of the windows from the outside. From this, the imagery conveys how, at this point in the film, Babette’s influence remains outside of the sisters’ beliefs. She may have already made an impact on their lives, but the difference she had made remained to be on the surface, or on the outside, much like the window she was cleaning. However, at the film’s culmination, we see how Babette breaks this barrier by giving the sisters, along with their companions, a marvelous dining experience. By the end of the dinner, we see that the guests enjoyed the food, relationships are mended, and, ultimately, everyone is happier. They all learn to appreciate physical pleasures and no longer have to live in the bland and dry confines of their previous views. I believe this transition was fully imaged in the candle being snuffed out at the end of the film. Amidst all this, we also see the value of the general’s character. Beginning as a simple love interest to one of the sisters, the general also appears towards the end of the film. We see how his presence in itself already provides a contrast to the conservative mindset that prevails for the other characters in the film. This, I believe, is what resulted in the initial failure of his romance, but his presence in Babette’s actual feast is what encouraged everyone to fully experience the luxurious meal. The general acts as the consistent contrast to the film’s conservatism which ultimately pays off at the end, when his romance with Martina is seemingly fulfilled.



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