Wes Anderson employs a unique style that permeates all of his films in which the portrayal of scenes alternates between realism and surrealism. Not only is this a quirky method that differentiates him from other directors, but it is a means of advancing the narrative of movies to be about more than just what is being shown to us. In this case, The Grand Budapest Hotel becomes more than a comical story about Zero Moustafa and M. Gustave getting into and out of trouble.
The Grand Budapest Hotel can be dissected into four layers. On the first layer, there is a girl reading a book about the hotel and visiting the grave of the author. Then we are introduced to the author in his old age recollecting his experience as a writer, specifically when he met Moustafa. Then we reach the next layer in which Moustafa is telling the young author the story about him and his connection to the hotel in the past. The story of his connections with the hotel makes up the final layer. Thus, this film is not defined by the story within it, rather it is about the telling of a story long ago, riddled with nostalgia and biases.
As a story of the past, bias, nostalgia, and misinformation seep into what we see on screen as an artificial aesthetic. It honestly portrays the way that the passing on of information affects the reality of the past. The hotel (shown below) we see in this film is not the hotel of reality, but it’s the hotel of the story. The characters are not the people from the real events, but they are caricatures of those people.
An instance of this artificiality shows in the scene where Gustave and Zero are chasing Jopling down a mountain on a sled.
In this short video, Wes Anderson talks about how he made this scene. The artificial look was on purpose. This is a story being told in layers and we are seeing the memory of events and the recollection of interactions accompanied by all their bias and misinformation. This is visually portrayed through artificial looking sets, unrealistic colors, dramatic depictions of reality, and the use of puppets and miniature sets. It represents the cracks in reality caused by memory and nostalgia and in turn the effects it has on storytelling and perception of those stories.