The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel ★★★★½

*no spoilers*
A frequent criticism used against the films of Wes Anderson is their way of presenting emotion. It is not that his films are sterile or void of feeling, but that the director seems to have the emotional understanding of a tween. At his worst, he seems to be pandering to a mature audience that he clearly understands nothing about; on the other hand, in his best works, it is made prominent that has the empathy of an older child, somebody without a political agenda but believes in the simplest, ripest emotions. The final moments of ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ may very well be the most human moments in Anderson’s entire oeuvre; harshness is present, I cannot deny that, yet it is depicted with an innocence that is incomparable. This is a film that runs like clockwork, each frame, meticulously designed, expertly crafted. Cuts are quick, but never rapid, occasionally the camera lingers for a few minutes, waiting perhaps for a comedic pause, or maybe following M. Gustave as he runs away from the law enforcers. Yet once in a while, a moment is paused, elongated, and there is near silence. We hear the heaviness of Zero’s breathing before reflecting on a more painful memory, and as flawlessly as he may recite his reminiscence, no spoken words can even begin to compare to those few breaths that he takes, in preparation for the torture of remembrance.
Yet what makes these moments of subtle, hidden emotion work is that they are given something truly glorious to hide behind. Aesthetically pleasing is one thing, but ‘Grand Budapest’ is on a whole other level. The framing on the elongated ascension of the mountain scene is meticulous, perfectly mimicking how silent and early sound films captured sub-zero temperatures. I doubt Wes’ fascination with stop-motion is a secret to anyone, yet the cable cars are rendered so perfectly, with this form adding pitch-perfect symmetricality. This style is utilised again, a few minutes later, in the ski chase, marking the abrupt turns with much precision, adding a strange touch of humour to the whole affair. The design of the titular hotel itself is also rather magnificent, with the centrepiece halls and corridors lavish with colours, contrasting yet never striking, the peak of elegance. What makes the design truly impressive though is what is behind these rooms of utmost sophistication, and that is the quite ugly servant quarters, and what is done to make them ever so appealing. These are rooms bathed in greyness, yet the whiteness at the top of the walls add almost look like a layer of snow, blanketed upon the mountain that is the room. The bunk bed that Zero and Agatha sleep in, with the former in the top bunk, the latter in the bottom. Our lead allows himself to seamlessly lower his body, allowing him to see face to face with his lover. Behind them, an orange quilt, separating them from the clutter of the world around them.
I feel like I have gotten lost in describing just exactly how gorgeous this film is, but watching the almost paper like hotel in front of a magnificent mountain range, accompanied by Alexandre Desplat’s picturesque piano chords, is nothing short of cinematic splendour. Yet what makes this setting and design work so well is how much it juxtaposes with the actions taking place. Indeed, whilst this film is a lot of things, a pompous costume drama it is not. A heist film, certainly, a side-splitting farce, most definitely, but more than anything, this is an ode to the undiscovered art of accommodating to other’s needs. A bell boy is not simply a servant, but an imitation of the host, and the host is but a friend to everybody, somebody to be by your side for a few minutes before somebody else would like to consult with you. The Grand Budapest is not a mere hotel, building or institution, it is a never-ending work of art, the result of all those who have once worked there, and all those who currently are, anticipating that those who will govern in the future will also take delicate care of this creation. There is so much love put into this film, and I cannot help but love it back. I could ramble all day about the lenses used in different scenes, and the use of blocking, and Fiennes’ line delivery, and the more emotional moments, and Saoirse Ronan’s massive birthmark, but all my words would be redundant. What I can say more than anything is that, this is a film, and that is why I enjoy it so much, because it embraces its artificialities, to the point that they begin to fade away and reveal something truly affecting. This is such a joyful work, and really needs to be seen.

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