Can you compare and contrast the book Babette's Feast by Isak Dinesen with Babette's Feast, the 1987 Danish drama film directed by Gabriel Axel?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are some differences between Dinesen's work and the 1987 film.  One distinct difference would be the setting.  The town of Berlevaag is the setting in the book, while the film features the coastal setting of Jutland. Axel recognized such changes, as in setting, as being noticeable, but strives to maintain the same spirit of the novel:  ""There is a lot that works in writing, but when translated to pictures, it doesn't give at all the same impression or feeling. All the changes I undertook, I did to actually be faithful to Karen Blixen."  In this spirit, another significant difference is how transformational quality of the meal is depicted.  The cinematic use of colors that become infused into the setting once the feast takes hold conveys the same elements as the novel. However, the ability to inject external colors conveys a level of transformation that the novel sought to create in a more internal and subjective sense. 

Yet, there are more notions of similarity than difference in both work products.  The film "does justice to the precision of the Dinesen prose, to the particularity of her concerns and to the ironies that so amused her." Babette's transformative quality is evident in both.  The ending of the film confirms this with Babette's statement that "An artist is never poor," while the novel conveys the same sentiment through how divine benevolence validates that art is never wasted.  The transformational element in which old disagreements and anger dissipate in the face of food and communion is another element that the novel and film convey.  The convergence of "righteousness and bliss" is another thematic quality that is communicated in both novel and film.  Part of the transformational quality of food and art is that is communicated is that there is a way to find salvation and redemption in this life and in the next.  The film echoes this idea so prevalent in the book.  

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