I have claimed time and time again that The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s magnum opus, even surpassing the perfect The Royal Tenenbaums. My first experience of The Grand Budapest Hotel swept me away at the theatre, stunning me with its visually inspired beauty and whimsical cast of characters. Though my adoration for it was found only at a superficial level, it was still enough for me to claim it as a work of perfection. After going through director, Wes Anderson’s entire filmography, I felt a little sceptical on whether or not the film would still hit me with the same amount of wonder and admiration as my first experience, potentially seeing inside the cracks of its delicious facade. The Grand Budapest Hotel thankfully is delicious from outside to in, leaving a sweet taste in my mouth that would last a lifetime.
Deliciously beautiful; Wes Anderson has created a film that indulges itself with almost all aspects of its visual appearance, right down to the props that stands idle in the background; with everything coming together to create this gorgeous world. I was constantly engaged during the film’s short running time, relentlessly taking in aspects that I normally take for granted when watching a film; the costumes, the props, the set design, the art design, and the visual effects. Isolating one of these aspects would leave in a state of admiration, but view it all together, one would simply find themselves lost and completely immersed in its handsome world. The Grand Budapest Hotel features a larger budget for Anderson, as compared to his previous film, but not as large as what was given to him during the production of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou; but with this smaller budget, he was able to achieve so much more, seductively immersing us in its enticing atmosphere. Imagine what the man could do if he was given a major blockbuster budget!
This would mark the first time that Wes Anderson is given sole credit to a screenplay, but other individuals were given credit due to story contributions and thankful inspirations. Anderson has proven here that as a sole writer, he could create a wonderful story that manages to balance both its large and minor plots, without an instance of convolution; even in its multi-layered storytelling, it was able to come through with relative ease, especially at an emotional level. Anderson manages to instil a lavish amount hilarity in its intricate storytelling. The director recalls the comedic tendencies of his previous films, and elevates it to match the indulgence and eccentricities of its world. The bulk of the film’s comedy is rooted in the protagonist’s, M. Gustave, constant contradictions, the uncomfortable silences and the strange unpredictability in many of the film’s situations. Dialogue also manages to astoundingly entertain, never falling short to deliver comedy, character development, and subtle themes. The themes and ideas of the film are certainly difficult to grasp during its first viewing, as at the time I lacked understanding and familiarity to Anderson’s common themes and the film’s sweet and enchanting veil masquerades its darker ideas, in order to give the audience a feeling of positivity throughout.
The film primarily follows the story of a recently hired lobby boy, Zero, who is also taken under the wing of concierge M. Gustave. Through this they build a father-son-like relationship, Gustave acting as a mentor to not just the values and duties of the hotel, but also to life, helping Zero gain an understanding of the world that they live in. The relationship between the two characters are much special than any of Anderson’s similar relationships in his previous films, is that he brings something fresh and unique to a familiar structure; these are individuals set in a fictional time and fictional place, yet their problems look and feel distantly familiar. The choice of letting the story take place at a fictional world, allows it to hide from its audience the true horrors that lurks in its world; it is a masked metaphor of the initial declining conditions of Europe during the Second World War
Zero is a victim of war, a refugee who has lost his parents and his home due to the greediness of his political leaders, causing destruction and pain in order to inherit their desires. It gave the character a rich, political and personal history; an amount of depth that was severely lacking in his previous films. Though Zero admires and blindly follows the teachings of his mentor; Gustave is a flawed individual who seeks the comfort and affection of wealthy, elderly and blonde women, whom which are guests of the hotel. It is not clear on the true reasons behind his choices, but it may be due to a sense of loneliness and his deep affection for class and culture. This is a person who cherish and preserves the values and ethics behind art and culture, as maybe as a way to shield his guests and maybe himself from the wickedness of humanity and the suffering of reality. He even pushes his strict values to the members of his staff, ensuring that they will due to the best that they can to provide a service that upholds a sense of elegance and beauty. It was simply a pleasure to watch these two individuals grow their bond; with one finding refuge to a man that could heal the wounds of his life, while the other helps create a protégé to carry on his legacy to provide a service that delivers not only physical comfort but also emotional security. Due to the nature of his characters, and the themes that Anderson explores, this is his most mature and significant film.
If one thinks that Anderson’s previous films were indulgent and peculiar, this would push them over the edge. This is Anderson at his most visionary, creating an entire world that is fictional and rich, but also drawn from familiar elements. Robert Yeoman comes back again to capture the film’s artificiality but also subtly conveying the underlying darkness in its environment. The film’s shifting aspect ratio helps the audience become orientated to its constant movement through time, with each aspect ratio corresponding to a particular era; the connection between the era and aspect ratio were based on the popular choice of screening during its respective time. Of course, the Wes Anderson trademarks are back to give the film that extra personality and allow it to succeed spectacularly as a comedy; with every panning, tilting, tracking, and centred shot, it left me a large grin on my face. On the musical side, Alexandre Desplat comes back for the third time in collaboration with Wes Anderson, delivering a score that is as ambitious as its visual indulgence and its scope of adventure. It is simply a delight to listen to, taking inspiration from its European influences, helping to shape the director’s intended tone and atmosphere. It seems that as Anderson’s films become bigger and more influenced by non-American elements, the less edgier his films would become from an audible standpoint. I think his musical score would be the first tune that would come into my head if I ever step into a luxuriously fabulous hotel.
It always excited me to see when a fresh and unfamiliar actor walks inside the frame of a Wes Anderson film. Here we have Ralph Fiennes, taking centre stage as M. Gustave, bringing a show-stunning performance that surpasses anything he has ever done in his extensive career, and that is including the films that he directed himself. With no problem at all, he carries the film’s comedy through his articulate choices of words and the sudden crack behind his classy persona. Tony Revolori was also wonderful as the innocent and hopeful Zero, providing a natural presence that further emphasises the eccentricities of Gustave’s personality. Both actors also demonstrate wonderful chemistry through entertaining and engaging dialogue exchanges. It is always lovely to see Adrien Brody in a Wes Anderson film, as it brings out a lighter side in Brody that I never get to see often, the same goes for Harvey Keitel. Saoirse Ronan was simply radiant in this, not having to do much but demonstrate through her natural beauty and youth, the purity of her character; now that is what I call wonderful casting! The rest of the ensemble cast act more as cameos rather than significant supporting roles; nevertheless, I enjoyed their presence, and it gave the film that feeling of richness with every new significant actor or actress stepping into the frame.
With the film’s success both critically and commercially, I cannot help but feel extremely excited for what would come next. Hopefully though, it would not get to him the same way that The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou did after the success of The Royal Tenenbaums. Perfection and beauty does not even begin to effectively describe the experience I had with this film. The Grand Budapest Hotel is both ambitious and intelligent in its storytelling, wrapping it in a delicious coating that would leave its audience drooling. There is simply nothing like it.