Film Diptych: Our Daily Bread & Babette’s Feast

Sometimes two good films are made even richer held side to side. Here’s a film diptych about food.

Watch Our Daily Bread first. It’s a German documentary without any words or music. The film makers got access to several of the big agricultural businesses in Europe and simply filmed them doing what we pay them to do (grow food, process that food). Have you ever seen the Discovery Channel show How it’s Made? I think it’s hypnotizing. Our Daily Bread is a little like that. But shot by an artist.

Frankly the film is haunting and horrifying. It’s also beautiful. When I squinted my eyes every frame was beautiful, the colors and the lines and movement. In fact there are a lot of scenes dominated with lines, long straight lines.

I was startled by how mechanical the food industry has become. I mean I knew it was highly mechanized, but this is so very sanitized and efficient! There are no smoke smudges or drops of sweat or caterpillars. There are just long straight lines. And many strained, scowling faces of workers. In order to not develop a horrified superiority complex throughout the film remind yourself that these are your factories, my factories.

Then watch Babette’s Feast, a really fun little light-hearted comedy about a strict puritan village somewhere in Scandinavia.

The purist of the puritans, two sisters, take in a french widow, displaced by war or some tragedy. Turns out Babette (that’s the Frenchwoman’s name) is a master artist of french cuisine. Babette, to the confusion and discomfort of the sisters, decides to prepare a single amazing feast in honor of the sisters’ dead father. This is truly uncomfortable for the sisters and all of their disciples because their father preached strongly against sensuality in favor of strict simplicity.

Watching the preparation of that feast, in a 19th Century kitchen with a wood stove and cast iron crockery, is a delight. Here watch a little:

This is bare knuckled cooking. There are lots of smoke smudges and sweaty bonnets and feathers. At the end, the strained faces of the puritans maybe just maybe bend a little into shy smiles.

[ODB images from

This entry was posted in Movies, Uncategorized by mbdeaton. Bookmark the permalink.

About mbdeaton

I study neutrino oscillations in neutron star mergers as a postdoc at North Carolina State University. Previously I was a graduate student at Washington State University, using the Spectral Einstein Code (SpEC) to simulate hydrodynamics in strong gravity. I like the following questions: What happens when black holes and neutron stars collide? What is the role of radiation (neutrinos!) in an event like that? What makes Fred and Doerte such fine teachers? What's physics for? What good can a scientist offer his local community, as a scientist?

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