Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, much alike each of his other films, is a delightfully charming and lively movie. So far of all the Wes Anderson films I have viewed, not a single one has allowed me to stop grinning like a child throughout their entire run time, and Grand Budapest may be my favorite of the lot. Grand Budapest, on many levels, feels like a self examination of the nature of Anderson’s own work. Each frame, meticulously crafted as it is, seems to paint a picture of the nature of constructing a fiction by hand, or by mouth and print, as it were in the narrative. The construction of the plot, as a window back into the past through the framework of the aged Mr. Zero’s story drips with nostalgia. Every word out of Zero’s mouth and every scene built around it seems untrustworthy, and straight out of fantasy. From the ridiculous moments in the plot which seem to be ripped straight from an summer spy flick to the vibrant and overly memorable characters, everything is perfect. One of my favorite examples of this is Zero’s love, Agatha. The birthmark on her cheek is claimed to resemble Mexico, but in the images we are given of her, it is a perfect photocopy of the country. Of course it is, because this is his memory of his one love, and he remembers her as she must have been to him, perfect. As we discussed in class, memory is messy, thoughts of the past get mixed up in our mind until we can barely distinguish on moment from another. But when telling a story, we get to put the pieces back together and doctor an image of how we want the past to have been. And yet, every time Zero thinks back upon her, he cries. Because the true pain in nostalgia is the knowledge that the things that happened in our past, no matter how actually messy or painful they were initially, will never happen again.
Towards the end of the film, the writer asks Zero if he kept the hotel to keep a piece of Gustave’s world with him. Zero responds with, “To be frank, I think his world had vanished long before he ever entered it.” Just as much as Zero is an image of the fiction of the worlds that Wes Anderson weaves together with his bare hands, Gustave is an image of the construction itself, of the control which Wes Anderson seeks over his constructs. Anderson creates worlds which cannot possibly exist but in film, and uses his sets and characters to reveal the ridiculousness of his fiction. Every miniature and set piece feels just as toy like as it is. You can feel the fiction rich in every frame. Take the sled scene for instance.
The actors representations throughout this scene feel ridiculously tiny, and the obvious miniatures point out the ridiculous fiction of this shot. As the narrative moves deeper into Zero’s story, more and more of these miniature set pieces pop up.
Though Wes Anderson’s fantastic version of the 1930’s and before is long past, the cinema allows us to join Anderson as he “sustains the illusion with a marvelous grace.”