If there’s one thing that audiences are counting on when they spend hard earned money on a cinema ticket, is that the filmmakers will deliver to them a good time. As we’ve seen countless times before, we can watch all the trailers, we can read the news, we can buy the merchandise way too early, and in the end out Serotonin tanks leave unfilled. Which leads me on to that famous group of directors who have transcended to auteurs. They are the one who can guarantee a good time, most of the time. One such director is Wes “symmetrical” Anderson, who has directed a lot of masterpieces with his own flourish. There are many special Wes Anderson films that I could choose to put in the title of this post, but I’ll stick to the one that at the time felt more special than the others. The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Set in the fictional nation of Zubrowka sits The Grand Budapest Hotel, A writer known simply as Author (Jude Law) meets the elderly owner of the hotel Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), he sits with Author and tells him his story of how he came from nothing to the owner of the hotel. Zero, this time played by Tony Revolori, starts his life at the hotel as a lobby boy under the tutelage of the concierge Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes). When M. Gustave’s 84 year old mistress Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) dies, she bequeaths M. Gustave with the priceless Boy with Apple painting. Her family is outraged and what ensues is a cat and mouse game to keep the painting between M. Gustave & Zero and Madame D.’s family.
Something that Wes Anderson has been able to do marvellously is to take his original stories and tell them in a way that they feel like real novels. The films he makes are even structured to act like novels, this is something I don’t think will ever be replicated. However, with The Grand Budapest Hotel, it feels closer to a fairy tale than a novel which I absolutely adore. I think the setting play a much bigger and significant role to achieving this tone and the reason for achieving this is beyond the symmetrically of a location. This film has possibly one of the best colour palettes ever put to cinema. the key here is vast but kept simple. The titular hotel itself has two variations, one with an exterior plastered with pastel pinks and one with drab greens and yellows, whose exterior has deteriorated down to the drab bricks it was built with. They tell the two tales of the hotel’s grandeur and decline, but I think it’s decline is a much more interesting tale, as you can tell the hotel is clinging onto it’s grandness with the still functioning palm court and Arabian baths, but it’s obviously not what it once was.
It must be every actor’s dream to get the call that they’ll be in a Wes Anderson film because they’re almost certainly guaranteed amazing characters and an amazing script. Ralph Fiennes unquestionably steals the show as the whimsical M. Gustave. There is a lot to this character that Ralph Fiennes has to bring out, he needs to show his discretion, his love for romantic poetry and “entertaining” regular older guests as well as his calculated side. Ralph has been showcasing character complexity without a fault for most of his career so it should come as no surprise he does it again here. Someone else that really impressed was Tony Revolori as the younger Zero, in his first feature film performance. First of all, this is the callup from heaven. Second, he too has a lot of responsibility for the progression of the film and for a script this polished, and a story where all the pieces work like clockwork, it was so easy for him to carry that weight.
When Wes Anderson has a film coming out, it blows every other films’ cast list away. I’ve only mention two here, but the likes of Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Willem Dafoe etc. all do a beautiful job in their roles. You have humongous names in this film that even show up just for a minor role. Truly a testament to Wes Anderson’s brilliance as a director.
The cinematography in this film is some of the best I’ve seen from regular collaborator Robert Yeoman. This film was shot in three different aspect ratios, each one used for the three different time periods of the film as a means to transport its audience there. You can always tell which time period of the film we’re in simply by what aspect ratio it uses. I’m also fairly sure that in the extreme wide shots of the film, a little bit of stop motion animation was even used.
Now that I think about it, The Grand Budapest Hotel isn’t just a fairy tale, it’s a watch. A mechanical watch with hundreds of individual cogs working together in harmonious perfection. What Wes Anderson achieves with the believability of his worlds is something totally unique. If his films were paintings, they’d be hung up with pride in The Louvre I have no doubt. The Grand Budapest Hotel is certainly his masterpiece amongst masterpieces. At some point, there will be a moment of lighting, cinematography, use of sound and music etc. that will be a masterclass. It is self-contained world that bursts out of the silver screen and makes us think that something like the events of this film happened somewhere at some time.