The Oscar-winning Babette’s Feast has a cinematic flavor unlike any other film. Director Gabriel Axel invites viewers to swoon over the sensual and spiritual experience of the climactic meal as if they were eating it themselves. By the end of the film, you will be convinced that food can be raised to the level of art—and that through art comes divinity.
Though she serves it to a group of pious, ascetic Danish villagers, Babette cooks her dinner in the extravagant French nouvelle cuisinestyle. To learn more about the importance of food in French culture, we turned to sociologist Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson, who sat down for a fascinating interview for our new edition of the film. In this excerpt, she explains the aesthetic, religious, and communal dimensions of the film’s transcendent—and delicious-looking—meal.