Babette’s Feast: “Mercy is infinite”

Babette’s Feast is the great European film about two Danish sisters—Martina and Philippa—and their French maidservant, Babette, who comes to them in the night to find refuge after losing her family. She turns out to be a magnificent chef and blesses the town with a stunning feast in honor of the father of the two sisters, who was a renowned Protestant pastor and the spiritual father of this deeply pious community.

The feast is the centerpiece of this film and full of Eucharistic and eschatological imagery from Scripture: Babette’s feast is a proleptic taste of the blessed wedding feast of eternity. In the midst of this rapturous meal, a guest named Lorens—a general in the military who had been entranced by one of the sisters in his youth—stands up to deliver the most important speech in the film. His words resonate with the depth of Scripture itself. Books of sermons fail to match the beauty and power of these words.
Mercy and truth have met together.¹ Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another. Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness, believes he must make choices in this life. He trembles at the risks he takes. We do know fear.

But no. Our choice is of no importance. There comes a time when your eyes are opened. And we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence, and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions. And, lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us. And everything we rejected has also been granted. Yes, we even get back what we rejected.

For mercy and truth are met together. And righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.

¹ Psalm 85:10


Truly one of my favorite films of all time. Thanks for resurrecting it for me.
Ben Myers said…
Also one of my favourite films -- a real masterpiece.
Anonymous said…
Dan S said…
It has been awhile since I've seen this, so my memory may not be entirely accurate. But I remember something about how all the guests but the general thought the lavish feast must be immoral due to the unfamiliarity of the ingredients. So, they mostly tried to not taste it, while the general raved on and on about how wonderful it was, to the silence of everyone else.

Anyway, it was a great metaphor for missing out on the richness of life when we become too afraid of the unknown. Or perhaps it was a message against ascetisim. In any case, it was handled masterfully in the movie.
It's based on a novel that is VERY theological, more so than the film.
Anonymous said…
During the meal, two men forgive each other for cheating in business, and an estranged couple come to terms with their past over a passionate kiss. Then the guests go outside and sing and dance under the stars.

Stangers become friends, or, better, companions, from the French for "loaf-sharers". Would that the church's Breaking of Bread were more like like Babette's Feast, true meals of grace.

The story is by Isak Dinesen, whose short stories I read in a class on modern European literature in college. We watched this film for that class. Dinesen is the pen name for Karen Blixen. I highly recommend her stories.
Sorry, Micheal, obviously you know that. I was just stating that for the sake of other people.