The Grand Budapest Hotel welcomes audiences to the most whimsical and characteristic lodging cinema has to offer. War-torn Zubrowka. 1932, ‘68 and ‘85. A grandiose inn towers over the frosty mountainous peaks, accessible by rickety cable cars. Its halls, like a fabergé egg, wrapped in decorative garnishments. Jewelled classicism haunts the ornate corridors, tainted glows guiding visitors to their designated suites. International guests, brimming with eccentricity, seeking warmth within the inn’s own hearth. Employees upholding the luxurious lavishment that surrounds the building’s legacy. These descriptions are, of course, illustrating the proud member of the Society of the Crossed Keys that is The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Film, in all its expansivity, offers a multitude of poignancy within each story that is told. Some depict historic events in an attempt to remind audiences of humanity’s past mistakes, others strive for emotive reflection within their searing drama. Anderson though, no matter where your opinion lies in terms of his trademark aesthetics, is a distinctive storyteller through and through, as if reciting a bedtime tale. Very rarely, the simplest of stories can be the most effective when manipulated by a distinctive style that exudes an abundance of personality. No convoluted twists. No melodramatic sorrow. No burdensome themes. Just good old fashioned capers. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a reminder that film can combine artistic integrity with general entertainment to form a crowd-pleasing feature without resorting to archetypal traits. It is, without a doubt, tapping on the edge of mastery.
Through three differently adorned timelines, Anderson’s comedy-drama depicts the story of an unlikely friendship between the hotel’s concierge and newly recruited lobby boy, as they embark on several misadventures to prove the innocence of a wrongly accused murder.
First and foremost, let’s address the obvious. Every single frame in this feature can be extrapolated, printed on a canvas and exhibited in an art museum. Anderson, inhibiting his inner Kubrick, meticulously positions his actors, props and camera in such a mesmerising way that it can only be surmised as art. Whether that be precariously placing Fiennes’ arm on a counter or dictating hierarchical power by positioning actors far away from each other. It’s purposeful to accentuate Anderson’s beloved visual flair. His trademark visual style, involving symmetrical compositions, exterior and interior tracking shots, snap-zooms, etc., explicitly grants the hotel itself an abundance of character. The introductory segment expends precious limited minutes in detailing the very foundations of the building, most notably the various rooms that occupy its floors, and does so through epigrammatic cinematography that alludes to embellished imagination.
Anderson’s story flows beautifully throughout, constantly introducing eccentric characters into the eclectic mix of talent. Gustave’s flamboyant yet nonchalant persona juxtaposed Zero’s monotonously blunt personality, but it is with this stark contrast that the film proudly expresses its ability to marinate polar opposites. Anderson’s screenplay bursting with energy, providing supplement to his perceptible approach, granting every single character memorability and characterisations. The odd expletive or two emphasising the hilarity that ensues within Gustave’s misadventures, yet bestowing an equilibrium in visual and literary comedy. I recall my initial viewing being an experience of astonishment, by just how much disposition was embedded within the script for such a small runtime.
Every cast member embraced Anderson’s aesthetic appeal to maximise their characterisation. Fiennes, in particular, was sublime and withheld the ability to switch between passive-aggressive to sarcastically calm beautifully. Revolori battling against Fiennes’ domineering demeanour perfectly, each assisting each other in becoming that inch closer to perfection. But even members who had minor roles, including Anderson favourites Swinton, Wilson, Schwartzman and Murray, made a massive impression within the hotel. Costumes were exceptional, exhibiting vintage European cultures without hyperbolising its attire.
Desplat’s score, ranging from a balalaika to traditional orchestral instruments, elevated the surrounding alpine environment that the hotel was built upon. And, finally, praise must be given to the brief animations that were intertwined. From the skiing chase to the mounting of cable cars, the handcrafted nature of these segments, again, aided in producing personality to Anderson’s feature. Especially the introductory tracking shot of the Grand Budapest, which was clearly crafted from layered card and agglutinated together.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is brimming with intricacies that enable it to be so much more than just a standard comedy-drama. It’s a masterful exercise in combining character-driven dialogue with a contemporary visual style, bestowing a mass appeal upon the colossal front doors of the hotel. Quirky, vivacious and aggressively funny, it secures a director’s ambition into the realm of auteurism. It is, in my humble opinion, Anderson’s greatest cinematic accomplishment and receives an elusive perfect rating from myself. And remember: “Rudeness is merely the expression of fear”.