Eastern Europe, 1968. At the Grand Budapest, a once sumptuous hotel, a writer (Jude Law / Tom Wilkinson) meets Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori / F. Murray Abraham). He’s the owner of the hotel and invites the writer to have dinner with him. During supper, he hears Zero Moustafa’s story of the Grand Budapest Hotel, a romantic adventure in a fairy tale world.
Winner of four Academy Awards in 2015, Wes Anderson’s movie is a surreal crime story set in a world that no longer exists. Inspired by Stefan Zweig‘s memoir The World of Yesterday: Memories of a European (1942), Grand Budapest Hotel is a nostalgic immersion into story and myth. Melancholic, amusing, proud, elegant, the movie itself takes shape from its world and characters.
An exciting, romantic adventure
Zero’s story at Grand Budapest begins in 1932, when he starts working there as a porter. At that time the Hotel was among the most elegant in the world, and part of its reputation was due to its concierge. Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) is a refined, egocentric man, embodying everything clients of the hotel are looking for. He can guess his guests’ needs before they do and he’s able to entertain various relationships with them, too. He’s one of the reasons why guests come back to the Grand Budapest, and he’s all too well aware of that fact.
Among his regular guests, there is Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), a very rich, old lady. When her visit at Grand Budapest comes to an end, she says goodbye to Monsieur Gustave, confessing to him she believes it was her last time there. And indeed, just a few days afterwards she is found dead in her manor. Monsieur Gustave and Zero leave immediately for Madame D.’s home. There, they find out she had left a priceless painting to Monsieur Gustave: Boy With Apple. Thus begins their exciting escape, an adventurous puzzle game where every action corresponds to a reaction.
A melancholy, fairy tale world
A perfect mechanic rules the movie. Every character, every action, every choice is an inner piece that contributes to creating a perfectly functioning machine. Nothing is left to chance in order to direct a perfect, romantic adventure in a fairy tale world. Each detail is studied to build the atmosphere of a legend lost in time. The iconic cinematography of Wes Anderson is painted in pastel shades: warm and bright, they recall illustrations in old fairy tale books, such as Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. But at the same time, they are so vivid that every image seems to come from a fresco.
The scenic design and objects arrive from a world that exists no more. And even Monsieur Gustave himself feels straight out of a play, more than a real person. Both camera and character movements create a precise choreography leading through the story. Even the soundtrack, composed by Alexandre Desplat, contributes to mix legend with an old, Habsburg European atmosphere. To achieve this effect, he rearranged traditional melodies and classic music structures, creating a fascinating mix, lively and nostalgic at the same time.
Differently from his previous hermetic and poetic stories (as Rushmore or Moonrise Kingdom), Wes Anderson adds something new to this film. There’s a strong intrusion of reality since Nazism and political conflict have a strong impact on the events and characters. Grand Budapest Hotel is an elegant, brilliant comedy, constructed with a precision that recalls a Charlie Chaplin or Stanley Kubrick movie. An amusing and romantic crime story that reveals itself to be something more. A nostalgic hymn to a legendary, fairytale and lost world. Or maybe, a world existing only in Anderson’s imagination.