So I had the pleasure of seeing this whimsical cinematic snack recently: The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Even the title you want to eat. It’s all very considered. He didn’t call it the grand Bognor hotel.
Budapest signals elegance, European architecture, history, plus it clips the tongue nicely. It does not fail to deliver.
It certainly is a feast of a film visually and will keep you hooked with the eccentricity, comedy and curiosity of it all. The canvas of the film is woven with poignancy and tinged with an edge of palpable sadness.; Classic Anderson. Exploring themes of lost love, ageing, loyalty and moral ambiguity, Wes Anderson steers us through it, whilst keeping us thoroughly entertained.
It’s a very subtle assault of the senses in some ways. There are moments where I really feared for the characters and in the next it was all but forgotten as the comedy stepped up a notch.
It’s fair to say that from the very beginning I was invested in the characters.
Abraham has such gravitas that I didn’t want to take my eyes or ears off his rich mellifluous tones. Jude law’s character was superfluous and could have been played by anyone (I don’t really rate him, sorry) and the stars of the film most definitely are Tony Revolori & Ralph Fiennes. They have an unusual chemistry that really works.
Ralph Fiennes was superb in fact. When you think of the other roles that Ralph has played, he really is a chameleon and expert of his craft. His comedic timing was really brilliant and I found myself really laughing.
The opening scene reminded me of a Lowry painting, and was quintessentially a Wes Anderson shot. You can feel the palpable cold. The bleakness is there, whilst coupled with a spring of hope. The film was interspersed with these visual signposts, reminding us this was an Anderson vehicle. The scenes are also separated by beautiful Love Letters to the audience; font on crinkled paper, indicating the next ‘page’ of the film.
It’s also interesting to note that the ‘play within a play’ Shakespearean device has been employed, as this was a story within a story; another effect that adds to the highly stylized nature of the film.
Parts of it were dark and theatrical. Some of the characters were a little too stereo-typically ‘bad’ and ridiculous – I won’t spoil who though – and I found this less interesting than the human side of the story. It did add a layer of tension and suspense though and motivated the urgency of the film in some respects.
I’ll let you guess what kind of role Willem Dafoe took on..
A minor quibble I had is that the actor F Murray Abraham is actually Syrian/Italian and the part of his younger self is played by a very ethnically different looking Guatemalan boy. (Tony Revolori). This was slightly disconcerting but I am not sure if this was intentional. The boy who played his younger self is excellent though; very understated and quite quirky. Quite the contrast to his older self and highlighting the innocence and intrigue of this younger self.
I also absolutely love the fact that Wes doesn’t use CGI. I read an article that discloses the fact that the hotel on the side of a cliff is actually a model. This adds to the magical and sometimes ethereal quality of the cinematography. Something seems a little off but you are not sure what.
The film is at once measured, artistic and beautiful with some real laughs, mainly provided by Fiennes.
Go and sample this delicious bouquet of appetizers – you will not fail to be endeared by it.