Babette’s Feast

January_2007_MPW-16129The other day the family sat down and watched the great film Babette’s Feast.

I first saw the movie many years ago at BYU as part of its excellent International Cinema program. I remember at the time being amused at the parochial Danes of the film and being confused, almost distracted at Babette’s history. In other words, I largely missed the point.

This time around the movie rang clear to me, and I found myself very moved but many different things. The quirky Danish village on the Jutland coast no longer was a source of humor but rather a pathway to personal insight; Babette’s history, though still complicated, no longer confused me. And this time I was able to really listen to what I think is a pretty wonderful little thought, expressed by a captain of the hussars, Lorenz Lowenhielm:

Mercy and truth have met together. 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 our 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 have met together, and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.

I am not sure whether what he says is true, but it feels pretty good. Sometimes I look at career paths and choices I’ve made with regret; I waste a lot of time wondering what my life would have been like if only…

But at the same time, thinking of heaven and the full working of the Atonement, I think of a mercy and bliss that fills us up so that regrets and missed opportunities have no place. Maybe what we rejected isn’t granted to us — I don’t know. But I like the thought that heaven represents the blissful fullfulment of our possibilities.

And I’m glad I saw the movie again.


  1. This is a great film, and thanks for this choice insight.

  2. Steve Evans says:

    Plus it just has some amazing-looking food. I can’t wait until the Word of Wisdom gets lifted…

  3. Steve, Truman Madsen actually gave a talk comparing Babette’s feast to the sacrament. You can find it here.

  4. Steve Evans says:

    Great talk, Mark IV. Thanks!

  5. My wife is likely doing Dinesen for her dissertation. She is a wonderfully gifted writer (ambiguity intended). I hadn’t heard about Haight’s semi-NDE. Has his experience been integrated into the NDE literature?

  6. Years ago our Bishop held a Youth “media” night (he is in charge of the Church Music Dept.) and showed them films that he thought were well worth watching –mostly to give them a guidance bar and to show them what “good” media can be. This was one of the films. He then shared clips of this film with us in RS Enrichment a few months later. I have yet to see it, though! But I remember how much the clips and description of the movie touched me. Thanks for this post –I think I’ll have to go out and get the movie now…

  7. Great movie but those bird heads at dinner still grossed me out.

  8. I just watched this one a few months ago. It reminded me that there is something sacred about meals. I look forward to reading the Madsen article about the Sacrament. Sam MB, can you explain the “ambiguity intended” comment about Dinesen?

  9. I recently watched this film too, I had read about it a number of times in Truman Madsen’s BYU devotional talk “The Savior, the Sacrament, and Self-worth.” There are more comments than I’ll post here, but here’s a taste:

    We watched this film years ago in the presence of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. He has written what for me is one of the clearest and most in-reaching talks ever given on the relationship of souls, symbols and sacraments. He helped me see this story as an elaborate metaphor of what the scriptures call the wedding supper—or the marriage supper—of the Lamb. Jesus, does indeed, liken the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast. He calls the church His bride. And when she is adorned as a bride, He, as the Bridegroom, will come in triumphal reunion. To this consummating feast the poor and the meek of the earth will be invited. It will be a feast of feasts.”

    You can read the rest of the talk at:

  10. If I could choose only one film to own in my home, Babette’s Feast is it. I love the messages of mercy and healing and sacrifice.

    I will feel completely validated in my movie selections if you will now do a review of my number two movie, The Winslow Boy.

    Thank you for the links and quotes to the great talks.

  11. This is one of my favorite films of all time. One of those films, in my estimation, that shapes the very concept of cinema. I can think of very few films that are more spiritual in depth and scope.

    This is the kind of cinema I aspire to be a part of.

  12. #8, I believe Sam MB meant he’d defined “she” ambigiously. The sentence can be read to mean that his wife is a good writer or it can be read to mean that Dinesen is a good writer.

    I saw this movie a couple summers ago. The person that showed it to me loved to mock the initial letter introducing Babette when it says, “she can cook”

    It is a really good movie and I wished I could eat the feast too.

  13. The first time I watched this movie, I practically fell asleep. But the message grew on me and I’ve seen it several times since then. I also purchased it as a gift for a sister-in-law who I thought would appreciate it.

    In some ways it’s a little like watching the Food Network, except there’s additional moral to the story.

  14. I just added it to my netflix queue. Thank you for the recommendation

  15. I have always thought the story was about grace. How hard it is for people to accept it, recognize it for just how wonderful it is, or even appreciate the fact that it is offered for free and yet cost the giver everything she/He had.

  16. ElouiseBell says:

    Yes, I agree this great film is about grace. Reading the BCC comments caused me to remember the profound guideline given by Elder (later President) N. Eldon Tanner not long after he was called as a General Authority. He and his wife had just finished building their dream house up in Canada after years of work, and people were sympathizing about how much the Tanners would now have to “sacrifice” with the new calling. Elder Tanner brushed such comments aside, saying he didn’t believe in sacrifice except defined this way: “Sacrifice is giving up something you want or need for something you want or need em>more.” The good Danes in this tale thought they had to make grim, sober sacrifice to be righteous; Babette showed them that, through grace, meaningful sacrifice produces joyous bounty. A wonderful film indeed!

  17. I have been trying to access Elder Holland’s much-praised talk, “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments.” But every link I’ve run into is broken. I’d appreciate anyone pointing me to a link that works. Or maybe someone has a suggestion on how to get a hold of the talk. Thanks.

  18. Babette’s Feast is one of my all time favorite movies. I haven’t seen it in ages, but thanks for reminding me about it. I think it’s next on the “must see again” list! I loved your comments about, Steve.

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