Today I watched Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
The Grand Budapest Hotel of the title is an establishment in a fictional European country named Zubrowka that plays the setting to a story within a story within a story. A girl at a famous writer’s grave site reads from his memoirs in which he recounts the time he met the last proprietor of the titular hotel who then recounts to the writer the fanciful tale of how he came to be in possession of the place. The tale of the owner, named Zero Moustafa, begins with him as a lobby boy under the tutelage of Monsieur Gustave, a man of rare dignity who proves to be not just a manager but also attraction for the Grand Budapest. But one day one of his finest customers dies mysteriously and during the reading of her will her most valuable possession, a painting of a boy with an apple, is granted to Gustave. Her eldest son is a straight up villainous type though, so he goes about doing everything in his power to eliminate Gustave from the equation so he can claim full inheritance, going so far as to frame him for murder.
This film seems to have garnered the most acclaim of any Anderson film yet, and I can add my support to that pile, it really is one of his most striking and well constructed films. Firstly it is beautiful to look at virtually every frame of this film, it is a sumptuous visual feast unlike anything else out there. And the pastel bright presentation highlights a new approach to his typical themes, trading out the callous and cruel characters for kind and dignified ones. To me the thematic crux of this film seems to lie with the importance of dignity and the power of whimsy to secure said dignity in it’s own fantastical way, especially when the world is such a troubling place. Like all Anderson films there is a darkness hidden beneath the silliness and the colour, though in this film the darkness is not in the heart of the protagonists but in the world around them. Zubrowka seems to be undergoing some kind of fascist revolution in the background and Zero has status as an immigrant which all create a disturbing backdrop. How do the protagonists deal with this world and keep their sense about them? By keeping to a fastidious code of dignity and living the whimsical life of Hotel Staff in the early Twentieth Century.
This really is a great progression to Wes Anderson’s style and The Grand Budapest Hotel really feels like a breath of fresh air into Anderson’s themes and delivery. The visuals are just so striking, beautiful, and unique, and Anderson really pushes the envelope of what he can get away with in a live action environment. And once again we see him motivating his typical ensemble cast to deliver some exceptional performances, but I thought ever scene with either Ralph Fiennes’ Gustave or Adrien Brody’s wonderful villain turn belonged to those performers over everyone else. This film is a real show stopper, in such a way that I wonder what Anderson will do next, how can he top this one? 5/5