By Robert Barlow
For almost 20 years, director Wes Anderson has filled his movies with a quirkiness and style all his own. The characters in his films have reveled in that quirkiness, making it part of their DNA. Anderson’s newest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, adds yet another layer to this style and features a slightly darker tone than his usual fare.
The Grand Budapest Hotel recounts the adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune – all against the backdrop of the suddenly and dramatically changing world post-World War I. This setting accounts for the darker tone of the film, especially the villains.
Much of The Grand Budapest Hotel is shown as a series of flashback narrations and this is where Anderson really flexes his stylistic muscles. Anything happening in the present is shown to the audience in full widescreen glory but everything in the past is presented in a more television-like, squared-off point of view, making everything in the frame appear more closed in.
The switch does takes place without distracting the viewer and, at first, I was a little disappointed because viewing a Wes Anderson film on the big-screen is an experience in itself and I always want the maximum effect of that experience. But then I realized that the closing in of the frame made everything in the frame monumentally more important. Anderson forces the viewer to focus on every little detail in each shot for maximum emotional impact. He uses this effect to its fullest potential during what are perhaps some of the most inventive and fun prison break and chase scenes ever filmed.
This fun was only magnified during Friday’s opening night extravaganza at The Little Theatre as The Grand Budapest Hotel was shown on three screens and patrons eager to see Anderson’s latest film, dressed up as their favorite character from his previous films. It is this type of excitement and enthusiasm that an audience can expect from a Wes Anderson film and The Grand Budapest Hotel definitely delivers.
Robert Barlow is currently finishing his degree at St. John Fisher College. He left college early to write for Messenger Post newspapers, covering everything from murder trials and town government to film festivals and concerts. He is a self-professed movie geek and has attended the Toronto International Film Festival for 10 years.