Film Focus on… Wes Anderson
’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) by Emily Cook

With an all-star cast, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a fast-paced visual delight from start to finish.  We enter a surreal story world of unexpected twists and somewhat farcical events, all within a meticulously planned-out frame.

A still from The Grand Budapest Hotel

A still from The Grand Budapest Hotel

In line with Anderson’s trademark style, every shot in the Grand Budapest Hotel has been created with an almost obsessive attention to detail. Through meticulous and finely-crafted production design, Adam Stockhausen created a visually rich world, as flamboyant as the characters that inhabit it.
Several shots are centred, making the frame and set sometimes more important than the actors’ movements within the shot. An interesting montage of Wes Anderson’s use of symmetry, entitled ‘Wes Anderson // Centered’, has been created and can be found on vimeo .

Echoes of Stanley Kubrick’s one point perspective perhaps influenced this hallmark Anderson technique.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a film of many layers. Visually, it uses a combination of stop motion, live action, miniatures and matte paintings. Furthermore, the film is presented in not one but three aspect ratios. Each of the ratios is used to reflect the cinematic history of the respective period that they depict. The layering of techniques in conjunction with varying shot format, re-enforce furthur the idea of a story, within a story, within a story.
Anderson’s use of point of view (POV) shots was, in places, so abrupt that they broke through the suspension of disbelief and made the audience self-aware. This technique however can have strengths as it engages the audience, breaking up the traditional cinematic language we are accustomed to.

Here’s a very intriguing featurette on how they created the actual ‘hotel’.

It is a laugh out loud film, with much of the humour not coming from the dialogue but rather the character’s action within the frame. From skiing out of control down a mountain to a face popping out from a little window, I laughed with delight at the visual spectacle in front of me. Anderson creates much of this humour through the juxtaposition of scale between character, props and sets. At several points, I found myself whispering ‘wow’ under my breath.

Here’s the trailer for the film:

It was DOP John Craine who first made me aware of Wes Anderson and his work, I am thrilled he did. Have you seen the film? What do you make of it?

Emily Cook

This blog was written by Reel Vision/ Film Focus’ Emily Cook

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