Monday, July 14, 2008


An Anachronism in Babette's Feast?

In the movie Babette's Feast, sisters Philippa and Martine are the daughters of a Protestant minister in a seaside village in Denmark. The beautiful sisters attracted admirers. Philippa resisted the invitation of singer Achille Papin to run off to Paris, and Martine refused the attentions of army officer Lorens Loewenhielm. Papin returned to Paris, Loewenhielm to service in the army and life in high society. In one scene in the movie, Loewenhielm, still a young man, is shown at a ball, dancing to music that I recognized as a waltz by Brahms (Opus 39, Number 15).

This seems to be an anachronism. Some dates are mentioned in Babette's Feast. Babette arrived in the Danish village in September 1871, 35 years after Papin's stay there. If we assume that the early love affairs took place around 1836 and the ball not too long afterwards, then the waltz written by Brahms probably could not have been played at that ball. Brahms' Opus 39 was not published until 1865. The composer was born in 1833.

Michael Quinion, World Wide Words, Issue 594 (Saturday, 12 July 2008), discussed the word doryphore, introduced by Sir Harold Nicolson and defined by him as a "questing prig, who derives intense satisfaction from pointing out the errors of others." Nicolson spelled the word doriphore. The Oxford English Dictionary defines doryphore as "One who draws attention to the minor errors made by others, esp. in a pestering manner; a pedantic gadfly." One who draws attention to a minor anachronism in an otherwise splendid movie probably qualifies as a doryphore.

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