The Grand Budapest Hotel: Anderson’s Use of Color to Transform

Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel  tells the story of lobby boy Zero Moustafa and the original concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel, M. Gustave. Anderson’s mise-en-scene is meticulous in this piece, leaving the viewer to constantly analyze the changing colors, props, costumes, and atmosphere throughout the film.

I have seen this film once before and was blown away by the use of artistic detail and Anderson’s stunning combination of color choices. I remember being captivated by the symmetrical composition of many of the shots throughout the film and found the piece to be very visually satisfying.

A second viewing of The Grand Budapest Hotel has allowed me to more closely analyze Anderson’s use of color, not as just a way to simply appeal to the eye. Color is used to transition between settings and can set the atmosphere and tone of the scene. Costumes and props are illustrated with different colors for symbolic significance or to make actors/objects stand out in a scene.

The actors wear purple costumes which signify the rich elegance of the hotel in which they work and also allow them to stand out as contrasted with the red wall. Madame D. wears red, which makes her disappear into the red wall, as she we later disappear (her death) later on in the film.


The film begins with a scene showcasing a girl in a cemetery. The atmosphere is dreary because the colors are very dull and muted. We are introduced to a statue of “The Author”, which then transforms into the author itself leading us into the second segment of the film.


The colors have changed to warmer hues and the mise-en-scene is suddenly very theatrical. A spotlight flashes on the author as he makes eye contact with us.








The mise-en-scene has now changed to resemble a storybook-like image. There are hues of pink, blue, and purple and the scenery looks as though it was painted. The pastel tones give the scene a dream-like nostalgia.
Colors are switched as the setting and time period switches. Grand Budapest in 1968.
Colors reflect off of Agatha’s face in warm pink hues.
Dimitri and others wearing all black is symbolic of conformity, darkness taking over.


These are just some examples of how color is utilized throughout The Grand Budapest Hotel to act as a symbol, serve as a transition, create a mood, and evoke feeling.

I would like to know what others think about the sudden shift to black and white towards the end of the film and then the return back. I’m not quite sure what this represents specifically besides the general looming darkness of the war.

We go from the beautiful pink and perfect Grand Budapest Hotel to the run down brown/orange Budapest Hotel. Things are not as they once were for Zero. The hotel has changed, he has lost Agatha, his child, and Gustave. How else is nostalgia painful and how is it depicted in this film?

Although fictional, do you think The Grand Budapest Hotel does a good job of reflecting on/remembering the Holocaust? I think control, power, darkness, and disregard for the law were all depicted in this film, but it really became a clear picture towards the end of the film with the scene shown below.