This Academy Award-winner for Best Foreign Language Film was a big art house hit, spawning a whole international subgenre, "foodie" (films about the liberating effects of good food). It's adapted from a story by Isak Dinesen about two sisters in a 19th century Calvinist settlement in Denmark who, under their late father's rigorous spiritual dictates, pass up their chances for romance and worldly success. Years pass; they grow into charitable old spinsters and one day a French war refugee, Babette (Stphane Audran), comes to work for them. Life goes quietly one for years until one day Babette decides to prepare a lavish gourmet dinner for the elders of the town, even though the thought of such decadence makes the sisters fear for their Christian souls. This all may sound rather dull to some viewers, but rest assured, no one who has seen this film has ever regretted it. Even with its measured pacing and austere emotional palette this remains a riveting experience from the first frame to the last. The acting is marvelously naturalistic, and the cinematography evokes the dark beauty of 19th century Scandinavian paintings, rendering the ancient, white-whiskered faces of the villagers, the windswept coastline, the wood-hewn interiors, and of course the incredible food, with a vital, deeply felt reverence that lingers in the mind long after the film is over.
Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film 1987