Use Setting and mine-en-scéne to Convey Human Traits

Wes Anderson is one of my favorite writer/directors in American film.  Not just for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” but for many of his works such as Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom.  In each of his movies he pays close attention to the setting he uses to set the general mood of a particular scene.   As a result, Wes Anderson’s movies tend to take on a “play” or “theatre” style.

For example, when we see The Grand Budapest Hotel in its 1932 setting, we see a bright, colorful and fantasy palace-like building and background.

This setup is akin to a “doll-house” where the vibrant colors signify a high society or royalty might visit for comfort and recreation.  This setting might represent a persons’ “dreamland” where they can escape to and marvel at the landscape of the countryside from a Grand Place.

Another example would be the gathering of Madam D.’s family.  The room where they are deciding who gets her fortune is filled with animal fur carpets, stuffed bears,  and head mounts.  The setting in this scene also symbolizes a wealthy society, but also fits a symbol of human greed and avarice.   Such is shown as the all of the members of the extended family show up to the reading of the will in an attempt to gain as much wealth as they can.

Lastly, one of my favorite scenes in the movie was the mountain chapel where they go to meet the butler.  At first, it was strange why Wes Anderson decided to place a chapel so high on a mountain only accessible by a cable car.  I feel that he does this, not only to signify the high place of the Church in the society of Europe, but to signify the perceives effort it takes to be recognized as a devoted member of a religion, and how easy it is to “fall from grace.”  The latter meaning is reinforced shortly after the Serge X is killed, when Mr. Gustave and Zero enter a rapid, downhill chase after his murderer.

Many of Wes Anderson’s scenes capture a mood, a feeling, or trait that fits the characters and the setting of the stories he tells.  What other scenes may there be examples of this.  Not just in The Grand Budapest Hotel but maybe other Wes Anderson movies.

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