Babette’s Feast [UK] Blu-ray Review

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  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
  • Audio Codec: Danish (Multilingual) LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: B (Region-Locked)
  • Certificate: U
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Run Time: 103 Mins.
  • Studio: Artificial Eye
  • Blu-ray Release Date: February 25, 2013
  • List Price: £19.99

 

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(The below TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:5/5]

Babettes-Feast-UK-BD_01

Of all all the films about food and romance, writer/director Gabriel Axel’s Babette’s Feast (Babettes gæstebud), sourced from the work of Out of Africa writer Isak Dinesen, is one of the most delightful. Set in a rugged 19th century coastal village in Denmark, the story follows two aging sisters Martine (Birgitte Federspiel) and Fillipa (Bodil Kjer). In their younger days, the two women were beauties whose devotion to their Protestant minister father (Pouel Kern) caused the two to pass up chances at love and fame. Years later, they take in Babette (Stéphane Audran), a political refugee from France, as their personal housekeeper. But Babette’s own past may lead to some stirring up of the stagnant stupor of religious devotion and regrets the sisters have found themselves in over the years, especially when she decides to throw a lavish French-style feast in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the sisters’ father’s birthday.

Axel’s handling of the material is pure genius from beginning to end. A wonderful exploration of both unexpected consequences, life decisions, and sometimes serendipitous situations, Babette’s Feast begins slowly, with an appropriately removed, pious aura, a narrator offering up much of the inner thoughts and motivations of the characters whose lives we are slowly being drawn into. As the film progresses, however, and as Babette enters, things begin to liven, and become more humorous. Before we even realize it, we are elbow deep in Babette’s nearly orgiastic feast, narrator nowhere to be found. We are struggling to keep ourselves from guffawing aloud at the reactions of the diners to the decadent cuisine the likes of which they’ve never tasted before. It is this denouement that really seals the deal for the film, like it has been on one long arc, like a life journey of discovery, charity, error, yearning, experimentation, and finally fulfillment.

One has to mention Axel’s use of the lens, courtesy of cinematographer Henning Kristiansen. The imagery of Scandinavia, its rolling hills of wild herbs, the seaside fishmongers, little straw-roofed villages, slow moving pans, patient shots on faces – these all make for an intimate experience that stays out of the way of the storytelling and brings us closer to the characters and their surroundings.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Babettes-Feast-UK-BD_02

This AVC/MPEG04 1080p encodement of Babette’s Feast from Artificial Eye has a natural film-like appearance and overall it offers a mostly clean image, with good contrast, free from source damage. It does, however, suffer from film softness in many of the distance shots, and darker areas have heightened grittiness. Close-ups, on the other hand, especially in the brighter sequences, look very natural, well defined, clear, and crisp.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

Babettes-Feast-UK-BD_03

The audio is offered in a LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit) stereo track that has narrow stereo imaging, but does provide reasonable dynamics and clear enough dialogue for the material at hand.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2/5]

Babettes-Feast-UK-BD_04

An interview with the film’s star Stéphane Audran (“Babette”) is the most compelling included extra on the disc.

The supplements:

  • Interview with Stéphane Audran (1080p/24; 00:06:52)
  • BFI Theatrical Trailer (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:01:32)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:03:24)

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

Babettes-Feast-UK-BD_05

Babette’s Feast won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and the British BAFTA Award for Best Film of 1987. Watching this film again on Blu-ray, I cannot argue with those decisions. Every time I have seen this film, I have taken something different away from it, but I have always enjoyed it immensely. It is one of the few films that easily fits across multiple genres, be it drama, romance, or comedy. A beautiful depiction of life’s journey, this edition of Babette’s Feast is a must for cinephiles.

 

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

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