Filmmakers include a variety of details in films’ plots in their aim to reveal in detail their characters’ inner lives and thoughts. In fact, this is the entire point of the sets and costumes specifically designed for every film. In their aim to create original manifestations of their characters’ inner emotions, filmmakers and actors apply some eccentric tools, often relating to the uncanny.
Food is a detail of everyday life but when a filmmaker decides on making it a part of a fictional individual’s act it adopts a certain number of atypical aspects. Here are some examples of food moments in film that are out of the ordinary but serve the purpose of revealing the feelings and goals of specific characters.
Hannibal – Brains
Probably there isn’t a literary or film serial killer fixated more on gourmet food than Hannibal Lecter. Of course, there is also the matter of what he actually cooks. Hannibal Lecter, dubbed the Cannibal, is notorious for murdering his victims and acquiring souvenirs from them. And then eating it. In most films this is never shown posing the suspicion as to the truthfulness of the character’s depiction and real habits. Despite that, the scene in Ridley Scott’s Hannibal where Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) feeds Krendler (Ray Liotta) his own brain is no less chilling. Similarly, the final scene of the film sees Lecter on a plane sharing his lunch (the rest of the brain) with a little boy, lucky enough to taste his gourmet masterpiece.
Fried Green Tomatoes – The Barbecue
Based on a novel by Fannie Flag, this 1991 film tells two stories – that of Evelyn and Ninny (Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy), and Idgie and Ruth (Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker). The reason this bitter-sweet drama is on this list is Idgie and Ruth’s Whistle Stop Café and the disappearance of Ruth’s husband. Although she leaves her friend to marry Frank, later Ruth returns to Idgie and Whistle Stop Café in attempt to escape her abusive marriage. When Frank disappears an investigation is carried out and the local sheriff visits the café but in vain. However, it is revealed that the secret to Ruth’s missing husband lies exactly in the café. Murdered by the café’s cook Sipsey and then barbecued by her son Big George, Frank’s body has been served to the sheriff when he came snooping around about his disappearance.
Taxi Driver – The Diner Scene
In the diner scene in Scorsese’s 1976 film Taxi Driver Travis Bickle (Robert de Niro) is trying to talk out Iris (the very young Jodie Foster) of being a hooker, who is sold out by the fedora-wearing pimp Sport (Harvey Keitel). At the time, Foster barely 12, sat through a number of visits to various diners, while de Niro practiced his quiet method-acting magic on her until she was comfortable with him and the scene. The scene is an example of how something as simple and mundane as making a jelly sandwich (Jodie Foster) can be taken up by filmmaking and made into a part of an incredibly memorable film moment such as this conversation.
Pulp Fiction – The Royale With Cheese
While driving in their car Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega (Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta) discuss the little differences between Europe and America. After the hash bars and beer, the two mention the different names the French McDonalds has for its burgers, such as the Royale with Cheese and Le Big Mac. Apparently, friendly banter isn’t out of the ordinary in the jumpy narrative of Pulp Fiction, even when the characters are driving to a shoot-out. The food motif that starts here, can also be noticed in other films by Quentin Tarantino such as the strudel scene with Colonel Landa and Shosanna (Inglourious Basterds) or Stuntman Mike’s nacho grande portion (Deathproof).
The Godfather – Spaghetti And Meatballs
When Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) is shot and is lying in hospital, the rest of the Corleone family prepares for the impact of the upcoming conflict with the other families. As he finds himself involved in the conflicts the family business entails, Michael (Al Pacino) also receives a cooking lesson from the infamous Peter Clemenza. According to tradition, when the men of the family ‘go to the mattresses’ (meaning they go to war) someone needs to be able to take care and cook for them. In the scene Clemenza demonstrates his recipe for spaghetti and meatballs sauce, suggesting the importance of good food for the Mafiosi even in the worst possible situation.