In his idiosyncratic work, Wes Anderson treats his audience to a wonderful quasi-reality were meticulous attention to detail is paramount. In the past, his obsession with even the minor details in his film has impacted slightly negatively on other more overbearing elements like characterisation and even plot, most notably in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004). However in his three most recent films Fantastic Mr Fox (2009), Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson has clearly found a perfect balance between these aspects of his filmmaking.
Another filmmaker as obsessed with the minor details of his films is one Stanley Kubrick. I’m not saying that Anderson is on Kubrick’s level, but both men envelope themselves in even the most insignificant details of their films. The film’s setting creates an obvious correlation with Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). Like the Overlook Hotel, The Grand Budapest has an eccentric, labyrinth-like interior, and you get the feeling that Anderson knows every corner of it. His cognitive mapping is second to none.
The look of Anderson’s films is unique to his work and this is thanks in no small part to Robert Yeoman, his cinematographer who has worked on every one of Anderson’s projects with the exception of Fantastic Mr Fox. While Anderson’s interiors are intricate in their detail, his exteriors are wondrous in their simplicity, many times reminding one of George Melies’ Voyage Dans la Lune (1902).
Anderson’s quirky storytelling techniques continue with this film. The bulk of the film’s narrative takes place, stay with me, in a story-within-a story-within-a-story-within a story. Moonrise Kingdom was set in a fictional island of New Penzance off New England in 1965. America was on the cusp of societal change, Anderson expressed this technically and thematically through his cinema taking influence from the French Nouvelle Vague and making a film about young love breaking away from the repression of an older generation.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is another period piece, set this time during a great societal upheaval in central Europe, 1932. A period was Anderson’s main influence, a writer named Stefan Zweig, was at the peak of his career. The hotel itself is situated in the (again fictional) Republic of Zubrowka, a country of the verge of war. However our principal character, hotel concierge M Gustave H (Fiennes) is ignorant of this fact, humbly obliging elderly guests of the Grand Budapest, happily living in his own bubble of hospitality and vocation.
Our stories narrator Zero Moustafa (Revolori) becomes Gustave’s unwanted protégé, the new refugee bell-boy of the Grand Budapest. The chemistry between these two characters leads to genuine comedy as they embark on an adventure pursuing Gustave’s right to a fortune left behind by regular Grand Budapest occupant Madame D (Swinton). In their way are obstacles in the form of Madame D’s son (Brody), his henchman (Dafoe) and the head of an army who looks suspiciously like the SS (Norton). It all gels to provide a comedy caper with a true emotional core. Zero and Agatha’s (Ronan) young romance is case in point as far as Anderson’s newfound sentimental side is concerned.
The Grand Budapest is a thoroughly enjoyable comedy, with characters you will care about and set-pieces of thrilling action. The film is also littered with cameos confirming that Anderson continues to be the American filmmaker everyone wants to work for.
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Tom is a film lover from Ireland. He has a Masters in Film Studies from University College Cork and currently works as an English teacher.