Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchy of basic human needs. There are five basic needs which influence our life and the way we behave. It is not a surprise that in a first place he puts Biological and Physiological needs: air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep. (Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, 2010).
Two amazing films Chocolat and Babette’s Feast reveal the importance and magical power of food and cooking. Not everybody is able to cook in the same way as Vianne Rocher, the unmarried mother of a small daughter or Babette a cook from Paris (main actresses in the films). “Some people like to paint pictures, or do gardening, or build a boat in the basement. Other people get a tremendous pleasure out of the kitchen, because cooking is just as creative and imaginative an activity as drawing, or wood carving, or music.” (Julia Child, 2012). I noticed that both women use the same spice for every meal they cook – it is Love. There is a saying that if woman cooks with love, meal has a different and heavenly taste.
Vianne Rocher and her daughter, Anouk came to a small French town and brought wind of changes. However, as I understood they were moving from one town to another pretty often and little girl was not happy about it. She was tired of packing, unpacking, changing schools and friends; all she wanted just to settle down in a one place. I enjoyed the way wind brought changes. Vianne was standing and the cold breeze was playing in her hair, that is a magic moment for changes – move to other place.
Newcomers evoked gossips between locals, because it was not acceptable that she is a single mother, who has never been married, she does not go to the church and she opened a shop which was quiet different from others. However, it happens all the time – people create wrong first impression and judge people without knowing them better. The same happened with people who lived in the village. After a while they were not afraid to visit Viane in her chocolate and enjoy the unspeakable taste of chocolate. I think people in the village were trapped in the frames of religious conservatism, while Vianne was encouraging self-expression. Also, the time when Viane and her daughter arrived was Lent and a lot of the locals don’t eat chocolate at that time.
Chocolate shop became a “healing centre”. People were talking that chocolate has magical powers. For one man chocolate worked like Viagra, it was long time he had sex with his wife or even look at her with a passionate look. I still remember how fun it was when the wife got back to the store at asked for the chocolate – “give me all as much as you have”. Another man was inspired to confess to local widow that he has adored her for a long time. Josephine found enough strength to leave her abusive husband.
Babette’s Feast is very similar to the film Chocolat. Babette is a cook from Paris, who was sent by an opera singer from Philippa’s past. Philippa and Martina are two spinsters (sisters), daughters of a priest who followed a strict puritanical rule and thought his daughters to live in the same way. After his death the daughters had carried out father’s traditions of selflessness, the single life (they never got married) and good works. Accepting Babette into their life was weird and unusual, maybe they even felt that it may be against their beliefs. Babette, like Vianne brought changes and gossips into the religious village too. People were afraid of changes, or they simply did not know the life outside the frames they created by themselves. Even the movie by itself does not have many colors; grey and black are dominant.
Babette did all what she was asked to do: cleaned the house, washed clothes, made bread soup and served dried fish. Routine, the same habits over and over – that was my first impression about the film. It seemed that people don’t rush and take their time to do what they started. At first Babette didn’t try to change something till the day when she won lots of money in a lottery. Sisters had been planning a small anniversary celebration in honor of the birthday of their father and Babette asked the sisters for permission to prepare and pay for a real French meal for this dinner.
Mystery, fear and uncertainty were in the air till the dinner. Sisters started feeling that they let the devil into the house. The food which Babette was preparing for the dinner looked sinful and forbidden. However, the same scenario repeated again – wrong first impression. This little community swears to each other that they will never tell to anybody what will happen during the dinner. But was there anything they should be ashamed of? Did they do something wrong? No! They enjoyed food like never before. Finally Babette showed that she is capable to do more than a bread soup. She is the best chef in Paris and admiral recognized the way she prepared the food – it was amazing. Carefully and slowly everybody was eating and drinking, trying things they never tried and their hearts were full of pure joy and happiness. Through the food Babette gave them a chance to say each other what they truly feel, a bit of wine gave enough courage to reveal secretes from long ago.
Besides the love for cooking there is one more very important connection between those two movies. At the end of the fill Vianne felt the wind – the same wind which usually means time for changes, move to other place. However, she was like a invaluable diamond for people living in that village and they didn’t want to let her go so easily. Then Vianne realized that this village will be new home for her and Anouk. Meanwhile, Philippa and Martina had no doubt that after the celebration Babette will go to Paris and leave them. For their surprise Babette was not even planning to do it. There is a saying “Your home is there, where your heart is”, for Babette it was living together with Philippa and Martina. I loved that one of the sisters said that one day Babette will be cooking for the angels in the sky; this is how talented she is.