The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel ★★★★★

A significant aspect of the film I didn't mention the first time is that it juggles four different time periods: opening with a present-day student reading The Grand Budapest Hotel; then going back to the 1980s, as the author speaks into the camera about how he came upon this story; then the 1960s, when the author as a young man meets Zero, who tells him his story; and finally the 1930s, where young Zero and M. Gustave have their adventures. On first viewing, I thought there was something meaningful about storytelling there, but I needed time to unpack it.

I think I still need more time, but in broad strokes: if the whole film is about these characters trying to live in a refined world that doesn't exist, trying to keep up appearances, then telling their stories (in arguably fantastical/exaggerated fashion) is the way they sustain the illusion. The first time we see the author, he tells us that people like to think writers just sit down with all of their characters and the events that will happen to them fully formed in their heads, though that isn't the case. This is then demonstrated by his grandson shooting him with a toy gun. Look at it one way, everything is bullshit. Look at it another, like the student who arrives at a bust of the author and places a key like the one from the Secret Society of Keys on a shrine, and we understand the spirit of these stories more than anyone ever could.

At least that's what I think right now.

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