Movie Night at Riverwood - Babette’s Feast
by Jimmy Hopper
Babetteâ??s Feast is literally a feast of theological and human insight played out in this beautiful movie. The overriding theme is that the totality and immensity of Godâ??s grace and mercy allows us to live in joy and with grace and alone gives us the ability to forgive others. The corollary is that seeing grace as miserly, narrow and needing our works to be complete causes Christians to be narrow minded, joyless and unforgiving. Here are some questions of interest to interact with and address, but given the depth of the movie, you probably have other ideas to put forth. Also, your impressions of the movie as a movie and as theology would be very interesting. Let everyone know what you think about the movie and the idea of grace it puts out.
â?¢ The hymn of the little church contained their credo and spoke of the coming of the new Jerusalem at the end of time. Did the church membersâ?? almost total concentration on this improve their ministry or did it in fact create obstacles in their mind?
â?¢ The hymn uses Jesusâ?? illustration of giving your son a stone when he asks for bread. Is there an irony in singing this given their concentration on austerity as being proper and â??holyâ? before the feast?
â?¢ The most enthusiastic participant at the dinner and the one who delivers the speech about the grace of God is the worldly general. Why is this the case? Consider this in the light of the story in Luke 7 in which the one forgiven much loves much.
â?¢ Martine and Philippa turn away from love and art respectively, believing that it would be displeasing to God. What, if anything, does the dinner and through it, the discovery of the richness of grace teach them about these decisions? What can we learn from it?
â?¢ There was much shock, concern and even revulsion about the turtle, the â??reptile,â? among the people, that was even expressed in the nightmare of the sister. Consider this in light of Peterâ??s vision about the sheet coming down from heaven with â??uncleanâ? animals in Acts 10. The turtle soup was enjoyed first by the outsider, the worldly General, then by the church. Is the â??goodnessâ? of Godâ??s grace in His provision for Gentiles an adequate explanation for the focus of the movie on this aspect of the feast?
â?¢ The entrÃ©e at Babetteâ??s Feast is Cailles en Sarcophage, or quail in a sarcophagus. A sarcophagus is a stone coffin. How does this relate to the imagery of communion and grace?
â?¢ Discord, dissension and backbiting had arisen in the church. How and why was this resolved by the Babetteâ??s feast?
â?¢ Fictional allegories are by nature imperfect but there are a number of ways in which Babette is a type of Christ. Remembering the imperfect nature of allegory, consider some of the following aspects:
Babette came to the austere coast from a much richer environment; one in which she held a more exalted place.
She gave everything to the preparation of the feast, saving nothing back for herself. Are there any other aspects of the movie in which this connection exists?
â?¢ The dinner symbolizes both Holy Communion and the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. Consider ways in which this is the case. Does the little group of twelve stand in for the church universal in this imagery?
â?¢ At the end of the movie, Babette says that she prepared the feast for herself, not for the church, and that she is a â??great artist.â? In what way would this match the allegorical type of Christ spoken of above?
â?¢ Both Philippa and Babette are told that they will practice their wonderful arts of singing and cooking in Heaven in various parts of the movie. What does this indicate to us about Heaven and how does this relate to the ideas of the little Church and the overall theme of Godâ??s overwhelming grace?