The latest outing into the marvelous imagination of Wes Anderson is The Grand Budapest Hotel, telling the story of Gustave. H, the legendary concierge of a magnificent hotel, perched on the top of a mountain in Zubrowka, a mythical European country.
It would be an understatement to describe it as having an ‘ensemble cast’ as there are a huge pile of famous faces making brief appearances, including many of Anderson’s regular collaborators – Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton and Owen Wilson. But there are also a few new faces joining the Anderverse, including Saoirse Ronan, Tony Revelori and Ralph Fiennes, who plays Gustave.
It all begins in 1932, when Zubrowka is on the verge of war. One of the hotel’s regular guests, Madame D (Swinton) has died suddenly, and left one of her priceless paintings “Boy With Apple” to Gustave, with whom she shared a special bond. Madame’s relatives are furious about her decision, and accuse Gustave of murdering her. The police then lock him away in a maximum security prison. With the help of the hotel lobby boy, Zero (Revelori) and a baker (Ronan), Gustave tries to break out of prison and steal back the painting that is rightfully his.
Anderson’s unique styling is what makes Grand Budapest such a joy to watch. Every shot is beautifully crafted symmetrically and every colour perfectly coordinated, to produce a magical, almost fairytale reality.
At the Berlin Film Festival where the film premiered (and won the Jury Grand Prix Silver Bear award) Anderson was asked about whether his production design ever overpowered his storytelling, and replied that he didn’t think it did. He argued that in his films, storytelling and design weighed equally. However, it is a flaw of his films that the concentration of the design coupled with the comic writing limits the depth of the character development. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a beautiful film to behold, and an entertaining caper too, but don’t expect it to make any judgments about society at large. This is pure whimsy.
The Grand Budapest Hotel will be released in UK cinemas on March 7th.