Berlin – The weather in the city was surprisingly good this morning – making hats and mittens unnecessary for a change – and outside the Friedrichstadt Palast people were queueing for one of the most anticipating films of the festival. “Please give me a ticket and make my dream come true” wrote the sign in the hands of a desperate film buff. And who can really blame him for that, as in the mean time, inside a packed theater, Wes Anderson was once again revealing his cinematic genius with “The Grand Budapest Hotel”! Not that anyone had doubts for that, at least not one that had attended the lively press conference last night, where the director was joined by top stars Bill Murray, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum and the young Toni Revolori and Saoirse Ronan!
Set in a fictional country – like most of Anderson’s films – somewhere in Europe, the film follows the emprise of Gustav, a prominent hotel concierge, who receives a precious painting after one his elderly conquests is killed, only to find himself in hasty turmoil when the Lady’s son seeks revenge and frames Gustav for her death. Along with him a series of allies, predominated by Zero, the trainee lobby boy, who find themselves in great danger. The theme may predispose you for a drama, but it is more history meets Moonrise Kingdom. And yes, expect all the trademarks of Anderson’s auterism: blistering plot pace, lots of rapid action set in still frames, the usual antisocial and misfit characters and animated like shots!
But embrace yourself for a novelty as well! For the first time in his filmography, we can see his characters actually growing up and coming to terms with their identity and the real world, as the action is taking place in three different time frames: the aristocratic 1930’s, the post war 1960’s and the contemporary 1980’s, where the film narrator is living.
And although his story is completely fictional – freely inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig – one cannot ignore the obvious references to real life historical events:the grand Aristocratic era comes to an end with the outbreak of a fierce war conflict, moral ethics are deprived, immigrants and legitimate citizens are arrested and interrogated by a police/military force, whose authority is vague and they are dressed in black uniforms with ZZ insignia.
But perhaps the most significant reference to reality in the film, is the Grand Budapest Hotel itself. What starts as a unique baroque hotel that welcomes the 1930’s aristocracy, after the war the hotel is remodeled, featuring lower ceilings with cheap wood panels and lit by harsh fluorescent lights, in what Adam Stockhausen – the oscar nominated production designer – describes as “GDR ugly”, and the erstwhile glorious Grand Budapest is now a refuge of ambiguous scholars.
The cast is once again all-star, with the usual suspects (Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton) ideally orchestrated by a classy Ralph Fiennes, an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton and a revealing performance by rookie Tony Revolori in the role of the lobby boy Zero Mustafa. Add to these some brilliant supporting roles by Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, Lea Seydoux, Saoirse Ronan, F. Murray Abraham, Willem Dafoe and the outstanding music score by Alexander Desplat and you have yourself one of the best films of the year…
The moment you thought he reached his limits, Wes Anderson just overcame himself with the Grand Budapest Hotel!