The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of our favourite films of recent years, but we did a terrible review of it back in 2014. Thusly, we’ve revisited our old post, given it a lovely new sheen of life, and here it is for you to stare at again! So come and celebrate with us this glorious movie, you just have to read the follow up preamble paragraph before you get to the trailers and stuff.
The film is about the eponymous (fictional) hotel and its charismatic concierge, Monsieur Gustave H. (performed magnificently by the talented Ralph Fiennes). Inspired by the works of writer Stefan Zweig, it’s a darkly humourous and spectacularly filmed look at 1930s Europe, oppressive governments, greed, love, friendship, and magnanimous behaviour – it’s all thanks to the efforts of Wes Anderson. Cheers, dude!
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Right, a brief synopsis! Monsieur Gustave H. is the concierge of a famous hotel in 1930s Europe. He’s joined by the young Zero who has suffered some sort of recent tragedy in his life, but he begins work as a lowly lobby boy before becoming embroiled in a murder story amongst a greedy family seeking wealth.
Now, Anderson’s films can be hit and miss. Always highly inventive and daring, let us not take that away from him, we still found the likes of the Royal Tenenbaums a bit annoying and the director always flirts with pretentiousness quite outrageously. The likes of the Squid and the Whale (2005) show what he’s capable of, though, but Grand Budapest Hotel is, surely, his greatest film and one of the best of this decade.
Fiennes dominates the film as the charming Gustave H. who is, at once, personable and welcoming but also utterly enigmatic. He takes Zero (Tony Revolori – only 17 at the time of filming) under his wing and becomes his mentor. The highly talented Irish actress Saoirse Ronan (only 19 at the time!) stars as Agatha, Zero’s love interest, but the three become wrapped up in the despicable antics of warring nations.
The plot is a lot more complex than the above, rather basic analysis as it cuts back and forth across various time frames (for instance, depicting the hotel decades later with Amadeus star F. Murray Abraham playing the much older Zero). There’s an all star cast thrown into the mix, too, which is common in Anderson films – there are loads of brief appearances and cameos: Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Jude Law, Léa Seydoux, and Owen Wilson. Jeff Goldblum also has an awesome role as a lawyer!
The dialogue is fast paced and witty, but it’s complemented brilliantly by Anderson’s clever directorial style. He picks up on perfect opportunities, such as the above where Gustave H. has a sudden conversational shift towards Mr. Mosher (Larry Pine). There’s a lot to take in – it’s a visual treat, fans of excellent narratives and dialogue will be left delighted, and the performances are universally terrific.
The story was inspired by Zweig’s novella Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman (1927) which we reviewed a few years ago, along with a couple of others such as Beware of Pity (1939). Filming took place in Germany, with shooting taking place in three aspect ratios (a familiar trick from Anderson), whilst the eponymous hotel was a miniature created by set designer Adam Stockhausen. So, yes, unfortunately you can’t stay there, but it was inspired by the Hotel Imperial in the Czech Republic.
The Grand Budapest Hotel has moments of slapstick, silliness, and black humour (military brutality, reminiscent of fascist groups from the ’30s, is initially depicted with a sense of humour), but it all ultimately leads to a quite crushingly brutal ending which places poignancy and the nature of life as the film’s final message.
We’re just happy glorious films such as this are still being made. Hollywood may be getting a lot of criticism right now, but this film is only from four years back, was a big hit, and is a clear indication there’s major talent out there ready to deliver classic work. If you’ve not seen it yet, do so. We’re making the claim it’s a modern classic!
Having touched on the soundtrack a bit above, we can delve a bit deeper into the more orchestral pieces of music which ramp up the emotions. Alexandre Desplat (splat?) composed it all, with gorgeous little numbers such as the choral piece above performed by Öse Schuppel’s Swiss folk group and is taken from the album Appenzeller Zäuerli.
The balalaika, a Russian instrument, is used heavily throughout the film, which was largely performed by the Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra. It’s a great soundtrack, perfectly complementing the antics and grandeur on screen.
Addendum: Accidentally Wes Anderson
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_________________________ Úlfljótsvatn Church | Úlfljótsvatn, Iceland | c. 1914 • • Úlfljótsvatn Church is located on Úlfljótur's Lake or Ugly Wolf Lake in southern Iceland just to the south of lake Þingvallavatn and approximately 45 miles (74km) east of Reykjavík • • Belonging to the Mosfell benefice of the Arnes deanery, the church was built in 1914 on the same spot as the ancient churches – on a headland entering the western part of Lake Ulfljotsvatn • • The relatively small wooden structure’s proportionally large steeple was added in 1924 • • The catholic churches here were dedicated to Holy Mary Mother of Christ and were annexed to the church in the parliamentary plains, Thingvellir. Now the church is served by the Reverend at Mosfell in the Grimsnes County • • Between 1929-33 the Reykjavik Energy Authority purchased the lake and the property surrounding Ulfljotsvatn – about 1400 hectares – to acquire the water rights for the power stations on Sog River • • The lake and the surrounding area is named after Úlfljótur, an important man who was involved in the Icelandic Parliament – Althingi – in 930 • • Know more? Please comment below! • • 📸: @me_and_mango • ✍️: @wikipedia • #AccidentallyWesAnderson #WesAnderson #VscoArchitecture #Vsco #Iceland #SymmetricalMonsters #Úlfljótsvatn #AccidentalWesAnderson
The Guardian newspaper recently ran an article highlighting a fabulous Instagram account you should follow called Accidentally Wes Anderson. The director has a specific visual style you can spot a mile off and this account is a compendium of contributions from good folks across the world who spot visual feasts reminiscent of the famed director.