By Michael Kalafatis (Stoke on Trent)
The Grand Budapest Hotel is “a picturesque elaborate and once widely celebrated establishment” as described by one of the three narrators of the film in 1985. The film starts in the present with the death of the unknown author who is also our narrator, then goes to 1985 where Tom Wilkinson portrays him as an old man when he recollects to his son the time he met Mr. Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham) in 1968. Our narrator who is portrayed in 1968 by Jude law has a dinner with Mr. Mustafa who tells him about the heydays of the hotel and how he became its owner in 1932.
Wes Anderson, the director and writer of the film has made every flashback different and unique by using different aspect ratio for each flashback, for the 1930s he used a 1.37 ratio, for 1960s a 2.35:1 anamorphic ratio and for the 1980s a 1.85 ratio – which is also the current and most used ration in most theatrical film. But is not only the ration that makes these flashbacks unique but also the colour palate which changes drastically with each flashback while retaining Anderson’s unique and meticulous composition.
The film takes place in Zublowka, a fictional European country where in 1932 we see Mustafa as a young lobby Boy who back then was called Zero, who becomes the protégé of Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes in one of his best roles and also one of his most quotable) who is concierge of the hotel. Gustave has a relationship with elderly Madame D. (Tilda Swinton just unrecognisable) who is found dead and in her inheritance leaves Monsieur Gustave a priceless painting. This has a consequence for Madame D.’s son Dmitri to suspect that Gustave took advantage of his mother. Monsieur Gustave has Zero and Agatha (Zero’s fiancée) who help him prove his innocence and escape Dmitri mercenary Chopling. Adrien Brody plays Dmitri and Willem Dafoe Chopling, who are one of the most sinister characters of Anderson filmography and on the opposite spectrum we get the young Zero played by the newcomer Tony Revolori whose maturity reminds us of Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore Anderson’s sophomore film and Saoirse Ronan as Agatha who has a birthmark of the shape of Africa and who is also an accomplish patissier.
Even though the film is a comedy there are some aspects of it that are humourless like the imminent war that is indirectly referred and Zero’s background as a war immigrant but that is not an odd thing as Wes Anderson always manages to convey serious subject matters in his films that are mainly comedies with serious undertone. Like other Wes Anderson films The Grand Budapest Hotel has affecting or even heart-breaking moments that make the film feel more grounded to reality because he is been criticize that he gives too much attention to the artificial look of his films but not on the script or character development, but I would have to disagree as Wes Anderson since Rushmore till The Grand Budapest Hotel he has managed to create unforgettable characters like Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenembaums, a lawyer who tries to reconnect with his estranged family or Bill Marley in The Life Aquatic of Steve Zisou, an oceanographer and documentarian who seeks revenge on the fish that killed his best friend, but Ralph Fiennes as M. Gustave is one of the best characters that Anderson has ever written , a character who is obsessed with keeping the hotel in the best possible condition, likes to recite romantic poetry and most of all enjoys the company of older women , and he manages to inject an admirable vigour into the character which shows just how much fun he had with the character. Alexander Desplat score also is a vital component of the film because it manages to make Anderson world believable and more fun to watch as it combines jovial orchestrations with poignant pieces that creates more depth to the film.
In The Grand Budapest Hotel we find Anderson usually trademarks like long tracking shots, uses of matte painting in the background, a very specific colour palate which in this film is mostly saturated pink, blue, red and desaturated blue and gold, uses of Futura font which is a Wes Anderson trademark since he started directing and numerous cameo from famous actors who have played a major roles in his previous film like Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman.
VERTICT: One of Wes Anderson best films as it manages to combine all the Andersonian traits like comedic moments followed closely by tragic moments and one of his most entertaining films mostly because of the way the characters are portrayed and the acting which is superb