Singing and Feasting Create a Community
by Caroline Gwaltney
Mamma Mia! (2008) is not a film known for its food, but a crucial scene includes feasting and invokes one of the central themes of a community coming together. The movie is built around Sophie and Sky's wedding and the preparation for it. People from the mainland and their families arrive, the island natives, Kalokairi, are preparing, and everyone is coming together for the girl who has grown up on the island her whole life. To spoil the ending, Sophie isn't the one who gets married. Instead, her mother, Donna, gets married to Sam after almost 20 years of being apart. After the wedding, they proceed to have a feast! A big thing in Mamma Mia! is all the songs and dances that they do, and they use a popular 80s band known as ABBA. So, they couldn't finish off the movie without not one but two more great ABBA songs. What sticks out most about this feast is a long table filling up the big courtyard in 'Villa Donna' (Figure 1). The large number of people gathering to celebrate fits a classic definition of a feast. The added 'Mamma Mia' characteristic of the feast is the singing. Before Sam grabs everyone's attention, the scene begins with everyone chatting and laughing. Then, Sam begins the song as a toast; he even hits the glass with a knife to call everyone's attention. They all transition into song and sing it together. The feast scene wraps up the movie with an epic feeling of coming together and suits Mamma Mia! and the theme well.
A feature of food before the feast was on the ferry with Rosie and Tanya towards the beginning. They sit next to a woman who has a dish in their hand. Rosie asks to see the dish; she opens it and screams. It's a fish with the eyes staring right at her (Figure 2). Rosie was not used to a dish like this, which is surprising because she is a cook and had just published her first cookbook. There are so many different cultures in this world, and sometimes a dish will scare you. This unusual dish adds to the defined sense of culture in Mamma Mia! They are throwing a Greek wedding, so there are going to be certain dishes that some may not be used to. Donna was not originally from the island of Kalokairi, which makes sense because her best friends were also not accustomed to some dishes they were introduced to.
Before the wedding, Donna sat in distress, spinning a plate on the table before the feast. It shows a part of feasting that we don't consider too often. Donna was likely concerned about Sophie, the wedding, and all the details. We tend to focus on the dynamic of the feast and not what it takes to get there. Once the wedding started and the partying began, Donna's apparent nerves seemed to disappear, and she enjoyed herself. But before, all she was concerned about was that Sophie would have the most perfect wedding. Donna even reacts to the groom and his boys goofing because she doesn't feel they take things seriously enough.
Another part of a feast celebration that isn’t typically discussed is what happens afterward. There isn’t always something that does go on. In Mamma Mia! There was lots of dancing and jumping around together to “Take a Chance on Me,” and I went crazy. They were so crazy that the jumping cracked the courtyard more, and they discovered ‘Aphrodite’s fountain.’ Everyone coming together to sing and dance epitomizes a sense of community, family, and coming together as one. In conclusion, the feast may not have been the focal point of the celebration, but it was a vital part of showing what Mamma Mia! was all about.
To tie all this together, these scenes in Mamma Mia! all show the culture and community expressed in the movie. Both Greek and Donna’s cultures (never told where she is originally from) come together as one in the film to celebrate a wedding that didn’t end up marrying the people they came for, and instead witnessing someone else’s marriage. People from the island of Kalokairi, people from Donna’s past, friends, and family all came together despite some differences and difficulties. The feast following shows how people adapted to this crazy turn of events and continued to celebrate the newly married couple. They are all happy to be there, feasting, celebrating, singing, and dancing.
Mamma Mia!. Dir. Phyllida Lloyd. Universal Pictures, 2008.