“Babette landed among the graceless ones. Followers of Luther, they heard sermons on grace nearly every Sunday and the rest of the week tried to earn God’s favor with their pieties and renunciations. Grace came to them in the form of a feast, Babette’s Feast, a meal of a lifetime lavished on those who had in no way earned it, who barely possessed the faculties to receive it. Grace came to Norre Vosburg as it always comes: free of charge, no strings attached, on the house. “
– Philip Yancey
As part of our continuing Cāny series, the second film that we absolutely had to choose is Babette’s Feast, a Danish film that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1987. Not only is the film a critically acclaimed masterpiece, but the story is an extraordinary parable of “grace”, the single most important word in all of Christianity. Adapted from a short story by Isak Dinesen, Babette’s Feast tells the story of two minister’s daughters who give up love and fame to remain in service to their tiny Lutheran church in a remote village in Denmark. They eventually take in a refugee from Paris and discover a secret from her past that ultimately transforms the small church.
Without giving away the surprises in the story, I will say that I cannot think of a more remarkable picture of the gospel, contrasting the church’s age-old bent towards legalism with Christ’s free, undeserving, unappreciated, and bountiful gift of grace. In the end, Babette’s Feast provides unique insight into the true nature of the Incarnation.
I have heard many sermons on grace over the years. None have had the impact on me as this underrated, obscure Danish film.