Features Live Action Movies

Babette’s Feast
(Babettes Gæstebud)

Director – Gabriel Axel – 1987 – Denmark – Cert. U – 103m


Winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the 1987 (60th) Oscars

Pelle The Conqueror (Pelle erobreren)


Director – Billie August – 1987 – Denmark – Cert. 15 – 157m

Winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the 1988 (61st) Oscars

This double review originally appeared in the Church Times.


Comments on Social and Religious Austerity.

Social hardship and religious severity have long been an artistic staple in Scandinavian films; two current video releases illustrate the point admirably. Pelle, the young lad of Pelle The Conqueror, is told he can conquer the whole world by his father (Max Von Sydow).

The turn of the century reality is less attractive, since the Swedish father and son are forced by economic necessity to migrate to neighbouring Denmark in search of farm labouring work. In Denmark, the boy boy struggles to keep his dreams alive despite local anti-Swede prejudice.

The tale and its setting strike a curious parallel with Babette’s Feast, in which Parisian refugee of the 1871 Communard uprising Babette (Stephan Audran) arrives in the Jutland Danish coastal region to seek refuge. Taken into the home of the daughters of a late Lutheran clergyman, she works in exchange for bed and board and observes the specifically Christian legalism underpinning the local, village community.

Upon winning the French national lottery prize some fourteen years after her flight, Babette surprises the locals by preparing a lavish French meal to commemorate the late vicar’s centenary. The initially suspicious guests are overwhelmed by her mouthwatering culinary efforts (as, too, is the viewer).

If Pelle The Conqueror‘s portrayal of social deprivation is bleak, Babette’s Feast comments on an underlying, austere religious piety by making the taste buds water.

Pelle The Conqueror and Babette’s Feast currently available on Braveworld Video’s Premier Collection at £10.99 each.

This double review originally appeared in the Church Times.

Babette’s Feast trailer:

Pelle The Conqueror trailer:


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