A World of Charm and Mystery: Checking Into “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

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There’s always something magical about Wes Anderson’s films, and The Grand Budapest Hotel might just be the director’s finest film to date. He truly is one of those rare film-makers with the ability to make unique and fresh films. I was first introduced to Anderson’s filmography by one of my best friends who insisted I watch the acclaimed director’s film collection because I would fall in love with the overall writing and development of characters—he was right. (How is he always right?) Upon watching The Royal Tenenbaums, I fell in love with Wes Anderson and was completely smitten by the writing, setting, production, and overall feel of his films.

Last month, Anderson’s highly-anticipated eighth feature, The Grand Budapest Hotel made its theatrical premiere, and I was lucky enough to catch a viewing last week as the film opened in more cities!

The Grand Budapest Hotel, framed by a dinner conversation between Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) and a young writer (Jude Law), recounts the adventures of Monsieur Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes)—a well-known concierge at the famous European hotel during the 1930s. Set in a fictional Wes Anderson version of a war-torn Eastern Europe during the onset of WWII, Gustave hires a young man named Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) as the hotel’s newest lobby boy. The eccentric and somewhat lonesome Gustave soon finds Moustafa to become his most trusted friend, and the only person he can rely on after being framed for the murder of his elderly lover, Madame D (Tilda Swinton); and the alleged thief of a priceless Renaissance painting that is in the middle of a battle for a family fortune.

There’s no denying it, but Anderson’s latest is pure cinematic gold. He has carefully and most warmly crafted a magical story of love, deception and murder, all beautifully wrapped up with stunning scenery, beautiful visual moments, and screwball and deadpan type humor. The production design seen in The Grand Budapest Hotel is gorgeous, and though such a feature has always been attended to in every Anderson production, there is a great sense of maturity transcending through this film. Filmed on location in the German town of Görlitz near the border of Poland, audiences and cinephiles alike can see how Anderson values the power and importance of a vivid and captivating set design, as well as art direction through the narration of a story. The setting itself is an important character in the film. In many ways, understanding the characters in their natural habitats creates a visceral experience for the watcher. Every specific image that Anderson has created onscreen is a visual treat, set to the cheerfully whimsical score by Alexandre Desplat—which I absolutely love and can’t stop listening to on Spotify.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is quite different than Anderson’s previous films. Though they contain the same eccentric signature seen throughout his work, there was another element he explored with this film. It is a story full of mystery and intrigue, and in many ways played the suspenseful scenes similarly to a Coen Brothers film, with that sort of “flash in the pan” climactic action. There were scenes where I truly gasped and was shocked, but it was tastefully done and that’s a great key to keeping the viewer engaged and excited while keeping in check with the classic Anderson signature.

The performances were all very well done, as always–an amazing cast at the helm of the brightly crafted film. I thought it was funny to hear from Wes Anderson in an interview with Charlie Rose last month that Angela Lansbury was originally thought of for the role of Madame D. That being said, Tilda Swinton was a delight to see onscreen as an octogenarian, even though her role was very small. There were many actors who had small parts in the film but definitely able to grab your attention in their respective scenes like Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Bob Balaban, just to name a few. I like to believe everyone who stars in a Wes Anderson film is as excited as the audience when we discover a familiar face or two. Every character was phenomenally crafted with their own little quirks; and each actor’s performance really did stand-out in their respective scenes. Ralph Fiennes, new to the Anderson film roster was incredibly engaging and amusing to watch with his portrayal of the punctilious and charming, Gustave H–a gentleman who pleasures his wealthy female clients, no matter their age. Tony Revolori, in his first major role as Zero Moustafa was refreshing to watch. Revolori, known for his work in short films played his first major role with substance and poise. The young actor did a extraordinary job of helping to carry such a starry film with the talented and seasoned thespian, Fiennes, Bill Murray and Willem Dafoe, et al; and really held his own in every scene.

Something very beautiful about this film besides the set designs and location is the delicately sweet construction of the theme of friendship and fatherhood weaved through the narrative. Though evident in many of Anderson’s films, the relationship between Gustave and Zero is endearing and incredibly sweet to watch as the concierge parents the orphan lobby boy in many ways, and looks out for him as if he were his own. With the setting and tone in place, it definitely adds a very tender touch to the suspenseful events taking place in the film.

Inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a great, immersive film from start to finish. Is is pure and detailed fantasy of the highest kind as it’s brilliantly conceived, and recreates a bygone era through striking details and lush dialogue. The charm and colors of the film do darken with a sense of melancholy and nostalgia, but they keep up with the feel and look of the film. At the center of this charming stylistic madcap caper is a highly inventive film with offbeat comedic overtones, complemented by a vibrant gaiety. There is so much to say about this film, but all-in-all, it is definitely worth watching and an incredible story. I really loved the film! I do think it’s up there with my favorites like The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is now in theaters.

Image Credits: Fox Searchlight
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