The Grand Budapest Hotel

It’s a hard question, but the scene in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” where prisoners flee from jail using miniature jackhammers and pickaxes sneaked through the police inside exquisite frosting desserts is perhaps the most Wes Anderson scene for me. This could possibly be one of the most Wes Anderson things ever, the epitome of his mischievous, brilliant, and bizarrely practical creativity. The idea and execution have been given such meticulous attention that you really can only admire it while raising your eyes a tiny bit.

Mr. Anderson’s eighth film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” will satisfy his admirers, but even those who think it’s simply more of the same inimitable whimsy should reconsider. As a lifelong admirer and a skeptic, I was not only enchanted and affected but also pushed to a fresh degree of reverence.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Aerial view to the Statue of Liberty with Liberty Bridge and River Danube at background taken from Gellert Hill on sunrise in fog in Budapest, Hungary. Drone shot

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Wes Anderson and his crew opted to utilize small miniatures to replicate the hotel interior and exterior in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

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Set designer Adam Stockhausen conducted a considerable study with Mr. Anderson to gain a concept of the type of hotel they desired. From the hotel’s logo to its soaring cupolas, Carl Sprague’s drawing mixes the best of numerous sources of influence.

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The design was subsequently developed into more precise construction plans, such as this one showing the funicular that transfers visitors from the hamlet beneath resort.

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The producers collaborated with a modeling team to create the resort in miniatures.

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The hotel model is 14 feet long and 7 feet deep.

 

Mr. Anderson has a definite taste and a constant visual approach, and rather than branching out in new areas, he prefers to embellish and develop on known subjects and photographic patterns. Plenty of them can be found here: stationary, tightly populated, fussily poised frames; driving shots in which the photographer follows the protagonists like a low-flying bird; action sequences that forego the usual digital hocus-pocus in favor of the older, handcrafted wizardry of stop-motion graphics, matte drawings, and rear projection. You’ll also encounter odd folks that are both deep and hilarious, and who have a kind of goofy sadness. Several of them are portrayed by performers who have been in other Anderson films, such as Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton, and, of course, Owen Wilson and Bill Murray (although momentarily).

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Obviously, it’s a Wes Anderson film, and that’s fantastic. There are now few American directors who have the capacity to formulate such a distinctive, individualistic vision and the resources to openly express that perspective. There’s a lot of honesty here, as well as a lot of desire. This is a film about — and affected by — a very rich and difficult slice of twentieth-century European culture, and so a confrontation with somewhat nasty history, which is both wonderfully amusing and essentially somber.00:001:09

 

 

That sentence appears twice in the film and is crucial to understanding its goals. Zubrowka, in the genuine 1930s, was on the verge of unimaginable cruelty and terrible bloodshed. A magnificent, delicate Central European civilization was almost completely destroyed, surviving only as a phantom of nostalgia. Mr. Anderson encompasses nostalgic feelings for a previous era of railway storage containers, telegrams, and hand-crafted suitcases; louche noblemen, subtle bellhops, and ruddy-faced toilers; mural, poems, and psychoanalytic theory; but he also attempted to figure through it, to encapsulate some of the vigor and quirk of a disappeared world.

 

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