The Grand Budapest Hotel – 99 Minutes in Another World

Wes Anderson has a new movie out. This time around, it’s about a grand old hotel in the mountains and its very, very eccentric concierge as well as said concierge’s friend and immigrant. This movie is Wes Anderson at his finest. Why? Find out here!

Before we get to the point where I say why this might be the one for which Wes Anderson and/or Ralph Fiennes should win an Oscar regardless of awards season being upon us, let’s have a look at the story.

In the alpine nation of Zubrowka, there once was a hotel called The Grand Budapest Hotel. It was a magnificent place. Polished, posh, luxurious with spas and a grand dining salon and a stage and it celebrated the big hotels, the pompous luxury or the early decades of the century. That hotel was run by Gustave H, simply known as Monsieur Gustave.

The Grand Budapest finds itself in a bit of a precarious spot. As much as it’s a luxurious place, there are bad times ahead. Because the neighbouring nation of Lutz is threatening to lock down the borders and start a war with Zubrowka.

This doesn’t concern Monsieur Gustave much. Not yet anyways. Because, you see, the ultimately enigmatic Monsieur Gustave has standards. He is old-fashioned and what we’d call customer-oriented today. He makes sure that every need of his guests is met, instructing his new Lobby Boy, while doing it. He runs The Grand Budapest with a shocking efficiency and everyone’s happy. Even his staff whom he holds to the highest quality and reads ridiculous and never-ending poems to as well as holding sermons to.

But, you see, here’s the thing: Monsieur Gustave is a scoundrel. He has a relationship with the elderly guests and then gets part of their legacy, if not all of it. It’s never outright stated. In fact, it’s only ever hinted at. Monsieur Gustave might be a perfectly upstanding citizen. So when an old countess dies at the ripe old age of 84, Monsieur Gustave and his lobby boy Zero rush to the funeral and the opening of the testament in case they get something out of it. And due to some really weird last-minute amendment to the testament, Monsieur Gustave gets a priceless painting. He decides to remove it from the premises immediately, because the evil family of the old countess might want to steal it. He does vow to keep the painting forever and that it will be “the painting over my deathbed”. Until he decides to sell it to keep it from the family. And that’s when Gustave’s life gets derailed. Big time.

Maybe you’ve guessed it already, this movie lives off of the character of Monsieur Gustave. And what a character he is, which is down in no small part the performance of Ralph Fiennes. Because both character as well as actor are spectacular. Let’s have a look at Monsieur Gustave: He has style. He insists on it. Everything must be perfect, everything must have its form, its order. Clothes, rooms, walking, talking, grooming. Everything. And occasionally, this façade cracks and he’s as foul-mouthed as the people he thinks so far below himself. He drops F-Bombs, insults left and right and is far less verbose as he is when he’s not upset.

Ralph Fiennes does these moments perfectly. His entire performance plays off the duality of the character in an environment that isn’t made for him. Because Zero remarks at one point that Monsieur Gustave is very much a man out of his time. In fact, according to Zero, his time was over before Gustave was even born. Fiennes keeps Gustave’s motives a secret, never seeming any more or less dishonest at any given time. Because Fiennes’ Gustave is a man who lives every moment to its fullest.

The question you’ve all been asking: Is it a typical Wes Anderson film? Yes. And because I seriously can’t think of a better word to use, I will use the word that every other person has used at one point or another to describe Anderson’s films: whimsical. He achieves this by his usual means, small, pompous, colourful sets, delightfully weird characters and very little CGI, opting for practical effects such as stop-motion. Then there’s the extraordinary soundtrack that probably wouldn’t get any attention were it not for the movie. And all these odd things fit together. Even the completely unrelated framing device. You see, the movie opens with a girl on a graveyard in present day reading a book by a man known as The Author. Flashback. The Author in 1985 talks to the camera about his encounter with a man at the Grand Budapest in 1968 – Flashback within a Flashback – when the hotel had lost most of all of its luxury and has become decrepit. The man talks about Monsieur Gustave. Flashback within a Flashback within a Flashback. And then there’s the main story in 1932.

As the audience, you’re painfully aware that this is all made up, fictional and very obviously impossible. Wes Anderson doesn’t even try to be realistic, even though it’s clear that the nation of Lutz is Nazi-Germany and every dialog over the course of the entire movie is probably spoken in German. But still, you find yourself be carried away into this weird world where nothing is the way it should be but everything is coherent and wonderful. It’s Wes Anderson’s best movie to date. He works with amazing actors, incredible sets and a funny story. He is a serious contender for awards with this movie.

So all in all, go see it. It’s so worth your money.


About Dom

Possessing nigh-encyclopaedic knowledge when it comes to comic books and movies, Dom is one of the co-founders of the Uncanny Book-Club. He also enjoys movies, and going to the cinema.

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