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Babettes feast film notes

Babettes feast film notes - Babette's Feast(1987 1987 A...

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Unformatted text preview: Babette 's Feast (1987) 1987. A Just Betzer/Pantxama Film International production in cooperation with Nordisk Film and the Danish Film Institute. Claes Kastholm Hansen, Executive Producer. Just Betzer and Bo Christiensen, Producers. Gabriel Axel, Director. Gabriel Axel. Screenwriter. Adapted from a story by Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen). Henning Kristiansen, Director of Photography. Sven Wichman and Jan Petersen, Production Designers. Annelise Hauberg, Pia Myrdal, and Karl Lagerfeld. Costumes. Lydia Pujols, Bente Malier, and Elisabeth Bukkehave, Make Up Artists. Finn Henriksen, Editor. Michael Dela and John Nielsen. Sound Design. Per Nergaard, Original Music. Jan Pedersen, Gastronomic Advisor. Eastmancolor. 103 Minutes. CAST: Stephane Audran (Babette), Birgitte Federspiel (old Martina). Vibeke Hastrup (young Martina). Bodil Kjer (old Philippa), Hanne Stensgard (young Philippa), Jean-Philippe Lafont (Achille Papin), Gudmar Wivesson (young Lorenz Lowenhielm), Jarl Kulle (old Lorenz Lowenhielm), Bibi Andersson (Lady fi'om the Court), Bendt Rothe (Old Nielsen). Ebbe Rode (Christopher), Lisbeth Movin (The Widow), Preben Leerdorfi (The Captain), Poule Kern (The Vicar), Axel Strebye (Coachman), Ebba With (Lorens' Aunt), Erik Petersen (Young Erik), Holger Perfort (Karlsen), Asia Esper Andersen (Anna), Else Petersen (Solveig), Finn Nielsen (Grocer). Therese Hojgaard Christensen (Martha). Las Lohmann (Fisherman), Tine Miehe-Renard (Loren‘s Wife). Thomas Antoni i (Swedish Lieutenant), Gert Bastian (Poor Man). Viggo Bentzon (Fisherman in Rowing Boat). Cay Kristiansen (Poul). Ghita Norby (Narrator) \ Attempting to penetrate the lucrative American magazine market, Danish writer Isak Dinesen, (aka Karen Blixen. best known for Out of Africa) took the advice of a friend: "Write about food. Americans are obsessed with food."1 The resulting short story, "Babette‘s Feast“, appeared in the June. 1950 issue of Ladies“ Home Journal. Nearly four decades later, Danish director~screenwriter Gabriel Axel's film version of the story was proclaimed an art house hit by American film critics, winning him the 1987 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Yet in an interview for the Spring '98 issue of Sight and Sound, Axel remarked, "The film hasn‘t received a single award in Denmark. No one is a prophet in his own country. "2 Perhaps Dinesen's friend‘s estimations of American art house appetites hold some truth. . . Axel's film version of Babette opens with a flat plane of gray sea and sky, zooming out to reveal the rooftops of a late 1‘9“1 century village on Denmark's remote Jutland Peninsula. A female narrator tells us of two pious elderly sisters. Martina and Philippa, who forsook the extravagances and amenities of the outside world in favor of ascetic living and the continuing of their deceased father's strict Lutheran ministry. Through flashback. the film visualizes each sister's brush with an opportunity to leave abstemious existence in favor of romance. wealth. and prestige. Flashback also explains the presence of their French housekeeper, Babette. who fled Paris when civil war broke out in 1871. The flashbacks end, the film returning to 1885. After fourteen years. Babette's only remaining link to her native land is a lottery ticket, renewed annually by a friend in Paris. When the ticket comes up a winner. the question becomes whether Babette will remain in the austere village or depart with her small fortune, returning to the material comforts ofthe outside world. The film's theme of "repression vs. expression" derives powerful support from a meticulous visual dcsrgn. juxtaposing the ascetic lifestyle ofthe Jutlanders against the encroachment of outside-world pleasures and material indulgences, Dinesen's original story took place in the Norway, but scouting the Norwegian coast during pre-production. Axel found its villages too beautiful and idyllic. He changed the setting to Denmark‘s Jutland Peninsula and built an entire town to his specifications.3 The resulting village is religious in its adherence to a limited color palette of grays and browns. Narrow, blownwout windows and candlelight predominate as means of lighting the sparse interiors, their simple wooden furnishings and whitewashed walls quickly dropping ofip into shadow. The villagers wear plain clothing, mostly black and gray, the women's silver hair neatly pinned, their faces pale and without makeup. Even weather is manipulated as a ' Nancy Bilyeau. "Hunger Artist." American Film (March, 1998): 68. jjill Forbes. "Axel's Feast." Sight & Sound (Spring, 1998): 107. ~Varietv (March 2. 1988): 4, design tool. When it is not raining or snowing, the coastal village remains under gray cloud cover. rendering exterior fighting flat and diffuse. Introduction to the outside world comes in a cut to a military courtyard, a row of alternating black and white horses stepping in perfect formation before the imposing yellow facade of an official-looking headquarters Ornate moldings and banjsters, period furniture, gowns and jewelry glimpsed at an officer's ball. women's hair in coifed ringlets, men's moustaches carefully waxed and curled——the decor, costuming, hairstyling, and makeup of this outside-world are clearly distinct from the Jutland Peninsula's. Yet compared to other late SO'S-early 90's period films (Scorsese's Age of Innocence, for example), Baberre’s depiction of late 19th century "society" is decidedly restrained. The interiors may be brighter than Jutland's. sourced with candelabras, chandeliers, and floor-to-ceiling windows, but the film's color palette opens up only slightly— dark green and pale blue walls, the gleam of brass buttons up the front of navy blue uniforms, rust colored waistcoats. The most striking use of color is carefully saved to coincide and underscore the film's midpoint: Babette receives the letter announcing her iottery winnings from a messenger on horseback, the jacket of his uniform crimson. Special visual attention is afforded to moments of intersection/connection between the film's two worlds. Standing together, faces lit by the glow of a single candle, young Philippa and her Lieutenant are momentarily transported from the surrounding blue darkness of the cottage's front hallway. The finer furnishings of the cottage's sitting room remain largely hidden in shadow throughout the film, save for a singing lesson scene between young Martina and a visiting French opera star. Here, light from the small windows reaches even the furthest wall of the room, giinting off a gold picture frame and the lacquered piano, the understated room and its furnishings imbued with sudden elegance. With details of her Parisian past still unspoken afier fourteen years of quiet service in the sisters' employ, Babette's character serves as a physical manifestation of the conflict between Jutland and the world outside, As such, the film affords her a subtle, but distinct visual treatment of her own. She first appears at the sisters' door on a stormy night, hidden beneath a hooded black cloak. utilizing costuming to establish the air of mystery surrounding her throughout the film. Her subsequent costuming remains in line with that of the other Jutlanders in its simplicity, but her auburn hair and the hint of color on her lips cast Babette in a restrained warmth. distinguishing her from the other women of the village. Bartering with a fisherman on the rocky beach. standing in silhouette against an orange evening sky, Babette is the only principal character repeatedly photographed in direct sunlight. underscoring her importance and centrality as the film's major agent of change. Babette is a ray of light in the otherwise bleak village. the film's visual design hinting at a latent exuberance beneath her reserved exterior. Careful control and pacing of visual design elements throughout the movie allows the late Minister's anniversary dinner to prevail as both the narrative and visual climax of the film. In his Monthly Film Bulletin review Richard Combs describes the banquet as "a set-piece comparable to those in a Hollywood spectacular. The sequence took a fortnight to shoot and employed one of Copenhagen's top chefs. Jan Pedersen of LaCocotte. as its second unit director.“4 The meal's splendor comes from its details, rather than from overt displays of ostentation or color--the glow of candlelight off the white tablecloth, the glint of silver and crystal. the golden fizz of champagne. Baberre's Feast, a film sparing in dialogue by modern standards, achieves much of its storytelling and thematic expression through a carefully executed visual design that, as Gabriel Axel. himself. notes. is as much about the elements withheld from the screen as it is about those presented "I find a similar quality in certain painters. such as Braque or Vermeer. Nothing extraneous, only the essential. In a film, what I look for is the actor's face. Nothing should detract from the actor's eyes, in which everything can be read. whether in long shot or in close-up. In Bubr’lit’ there's hardly a story. lt‘sjust a series ofportraits. And that's my ultimate aim."5 --8. Fox f Richard Combs. Monthly Film Bulletin (March. 1998): 74. ’ Forbes. 107. ...
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Babettes feast film notes - Babette's Feast(1987 1987 A...

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