Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ (2016) is a Cinematic Confection
I wrote this essay on Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ during my final year of undergraduate studies. Last year, I decided to edit and publish it on Medium.
Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel is about a concierge named, Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) who gets framed for the murder of his 84-year-old lover, dowager Madame D. (Tilda Swinton). Together, Gustave and his lobby boy, protege and friend, Zero (Tony Revolori) embark on a quest for fortune and to prove Monsieur Gustave’s innocence. Anderson is known for his symmetrical frames, visual ornamentation, novelistic chapter headings, the persuasive sense of yearning for the past which he has applied to almost all of his movies. He uses all of these elements and brings a lost world to a vivid cinematic world. Anderson’s earlier films such as Rushmore and Bottle Rocket have helped him create the foundational elements of what makes a Wes Anderson project. His movies are recognizable, and by mastering his craft and style, he has created a body of work that is unique to him.
What is particularly interesting about The Grand Budapest Hotel is that for most of the movie, it is styled in replete primary-coloured palettes that are soaked in objects, textures, patterns, fabrics, buildings and environments that the frames become a canvass. Anderson is invested in creating frames that compliment the subject and props, and every shot in the movie is filled with bursts of colour and patterns that it is impossible to look away from. However, in a scene where Monsieur Gustave and his friends help him to escape from prison, for being the sole suspect of Madame D’s murder, the colourful shades and patterns are different.
Monsieur Gustave and his friends escape their room using tools that were secretly hidden in Mendl’s boxes that were provided by Zero. Rather than showing the characters, their silhouettes are shown on the wall, sliding under and jumping across the guard’s bed. The group encounters five guards playing poker and Gunther (Volker Michalowski) sacrifices himself so that his friends can escape. Immediately, the shot cuts to the reactions of the other escapees who are watching the horrific scene. In the next shot, Gunther stabs the last guard and just before he dies, the guard stabs him in the chest and dies.
Anderson uses darker shades to illuminate the characteristics of Monsieur Gustave and his friends escaping the prison. In the nerve-wracking sequence, Anderson uses a series of stills, pans and zooms in and out, briefly focusing on the reactions of several people the characters encounter. The use of silhouettes to show Monsieur Gustave and his friends escaping the prison is a visual element that Anderson has never used before in his films. They are creative and shows the humorous side of Anderson’s films.
True to Anderson’s artistic elements, The Grand Budapest Hotel is different from his previous movies. It takes on Anderson’s usual cinematic confections with illuminating visual imagery. He uses the same elements such as symmetrical framing by placing his characters in the middle, but this movie is in a world of its own. With breathtaking cinematography and nodes to animation styles, Anderson uses these techniques that create movement and energy, as its part of a painting rather than a three-dimensional moving image.