A film filled with extraordinary cinematic experiences and lined up with a remarkable cast of actors that culminates with an amazing composition role transposed on screen by Ralph Fiennes. The mind of director Wes Anderson must be governed by a pink and funky wheel, that offers the same surrealistic and chromatic effects as of the above hotel, but his agile intelligence and strive for perfection produced film footages that will remain forever in the memorable archive of cinematography.
Film produced through the art of cinematography is a projection of life onto live images. There is much to be said about cinema, so many emotions, laughters and tears, thrills and fears, heroes and sentiments, instincts and invasions of the imaginary that are originating from such unfolding of rolls of film and projected onto screens. And Grand Budapest… has a lot of that grandeur in it.
Cinema is a lot of the times a form of entertainment, but it does also help to be alongside the lives and adventures of our favourite characters, we see ourselves through them and it gives us wings to fly, feelings that throw us into joy and happiness or disappointments and disapproval. And so it is an art. One must posess the gift, the talent, to be able to bring inspiring moving pictures towards the souls and feelings of us, the spectators. And Wes Anderson succeeds a lot into moving us in towards the picture.
Land in the Republic of Zubrowka, a land build out of satire, imagined to be geographically positioned somewhere in Eastern Europe, and the times are thrown back in the bygone era of the 1930’s. It is Stefan Zweig, the austrian author that lived the twilight of the Hapsburg Empire while in Vienna, that provides the source of inspiration for the worlds and the stories; and the remarkable resemblance of the author with the one and only M. Gustave H., the lively and charmant concierge that drives a lot of the weigh in the story. His mustache is at play and it feels natural for Ralph Fiennes to be bearing it, as so it felt much for Wes Anderson.
The beginnings of cinematography belong to its bigger brother, the theater, with its live acting, as this art will be nothing without the protagonists that give life to all the characters and dialogues happening on scene. And then it came the younger brother, photography, to start the way towards cinema, as the film projects as a continuous row of sequential photographs that roll in front of your eyes at a constant speed.
The advantage of cinema is that it can easily travel through time and frame. As is the case with the opening acts of the Grand…, it invites the spectator into the story through several different frames of time, shot so differently and with different techniques and technologies, before fully entering the spectacle of the essential show. It zooms through the cemetery of Lutz at the statue dedicated to the author, then with the author at home reciting from the writings, and then off the young author at the Grand Budapest, in its final stages awaiting demolition, encountering the strangely figure of Zero Moustafa; and finally the opening to the the frame and act of the exuberant Hotel, driven by the “fastidious” figure of Gustave H. (as per Ralph Fiennes) and the grandeur of that bygone era.
It all happens somewhere in and around Eastern Europe, the soundtrack music does says a lot of it. There is a strange but interesting melange of terms, places and people. Some related to the period and the people of those places, some out of place but with an added value to the creative proposition. But being such an “institution”, The Grand Budapest that is, one can expect such influences from all across the world. We are in Lutz, somewhere close to Nebelsbad, in the Alpine Sudeten, where you can climb to the natural wonder of the Gabelmeister Peak. All is paid in Klubecks, the best sweets and pastries come from Mendl’s, and some of the wealthiest people around are part of the reign of Madame Céline Villeneuve Desgoffe und Taxis (Madame D.).
But there is also a darker facet that slowly unrolls, it is the becoming of a dark satire that overtakes the story, murder and war step into the civilized world of M. Gustave and his beloved Lobby boy, Zero. It does become too somber and bitterly decaying, as was the pre-World-War-II world turning to be, with episodes of prison time culminated with a Great Escape Wes Anderson style, lead by the character Ludwig played by Harvey Keitel.
Cinematography as a reflection of movement onto a roll of film requires an eye of a visual genius and imagination, and it is sufficient to watch takes by the likes of Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrei Tarkovsky or Federico Fellini to visually be astonished by some of this form of genius. And so it is this vivid collection of imagery that Anderson strives almost to perfection. The combination of colours, decors, costumes and postures are unique and defining of the fastidious M. Anderson W., as he is a bit of that individual that is so pretentious and exquisite to the details.
Film unrolls itself onto each one’s memory from early stages of life. There isn’t one in this world that has not been brought up in life without a remarkable cinematographic experience. It is a contemporary art, perhaps one of the most influential of our days, the same way that painting and sculpture were in the Renaissance era. Hence the tremendous impact it has had on human race of the XX-XXI centuries.
While watching some of the behind the scenes of the making of the Grand… one has a revelation of how much creative work, man and material has gone into the production of this pellicule on location in Gorlitz, Germany, right on the crossing point of three Eastern European countries meeting against time – East-Germany, Poland and Czech Republic. That must have inspired much of the making, as the main venue for the Grand was under the cupola of a former shopping mall built at the beginning of the XX century – the Görlitzer Warenhaus.
But it said to be the spa town of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic that has been the main source of inspiration, a superbly coloured bohemian town that lies tucked away in between history and hot springs. Carlsbad is the name and it originates from the King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. This and the shake of hands between letters and moving pictures, as inspirations off Zweig’s memoirs, are the driving forces of many to say and understand from the cinematic experience.
It is a challenge to weigh and pronounce what has to get more credit in this movie. Is it the cast of characters, or the music and decors, or the scenario and unfolding of events, or the unique blend of colors and images that amaze the eye constantly? In the end you have to benefit from each and enjoy the delivery of such personages like Gustave H. or Zero Moustafa interpreted so realistically and naturally by Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori, Madame D. as the rich and transformed Tilda Swinton, Inspector Henckels by the military officer with a stylish mustache saluted through the eyes of Edward Norton, the tried and fried lawyer Deputy Kovacs played by Jeff Goldblum, followed and terminated by the scary and macabre J.G. Jopling as Williem Defoe, hired and payed by the obsessed and greedy Dmitri Desgoffe-und-Taxis (Adrien Brody) or the opening scenes bewteen F. Murray Abraham (the aging M. Moustafa) and Jude Law (as and the young writer). Add to this incredible cast, a unique background and blends of images, music and costumes to produce this extraordinary Grand… piece of cinematography.
“The possibility is raised that the world M. Gustave inhabits may really have ceased to exist even before he entered it. There is a suggestion that the whole thing is a feat of imagination. I think this resonates with the embrace of illusion in [Zweig’s memoir] The World of Yesterday.”
“You can see why for Zweig this turn of events would be the beginning of everything that became too much to bear. Not only because he was someone who had friends all over Europe and collected people actively — made friendships and made these connections and so on. He also collected manuscripts and books and musical scores, and he was gathering things from all over — among artists he admired. And eventually all this, plus his own work, was taken away, destroyed, made impossible for him to continue pursuing in that way. And when you read The World of Yesterday you just see how all the things he invested his life in, this world that he prefers to call the world of security, this life that had been growing more and more refined and free that’s so meaningful to him, is just obliterated.”