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A comical drama set in the fictional European ‘Republic of Zubrowka’, The Grand Budapest Hotel recently earned itself second place at the Berlin Film Festival.
The film begins with an unnamed writer played by Jude Law visiting the hotel past its prime in 1968. Amongst the strange characters who inhabit it, he encounters the aged and mysterious Mr. Moustafa who tends to keep to himself. Mr Moustafa has read the young writer’s previous work and invites him to dinner, promising to tell the tale of how the Grand Budapest Hotel came into his possession. Although it had fallen into disarray, back in 1935 the Grand Budapest was, despite the war beginning around it, as decadent and dignified as its concierge M. Gustave, with whom Zero Moustafa’s story begins. Gustave’s way of life is a little outdated and he is doused in heavy perfume, but he is likable for the way he holds himself and his position with pride and dignity. He also has romantic inclinations that are most apparent in his love of reading lengthy and ostentatious poetry out loud in any situation he sees fitting. He is a little camp, and when he confronted with soldiers raiding a train he simply says “I find these uniforms very drab.” M. Gustave gives a little more than his job description to some of the older female clientele, one of whom dies and much to the horror of her son, leaves him an important painting in her will. He asks the assistance of Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy, and together they build a heartwarming relationship as they take on a dangerous mission for the painting that takes them into the country that is war and poverty stricken.
Much a signature of Wes Anderson’s work is his meticulously choreographed, visually precise style. Like his previous works, Darjeeling Limited and Life Aquatic, Anderson creates bright, crisp and colourful sets and costumes and a quirky sense of humour throughout, even in the darker parts. The main story is told fittingly with the conventions of a book, unfolding in chapters and narrated by Zero Moustafa. At times the way the characters move and the style of shot hints comically at puppets, which works cleverly with the fact that it is a story within a story. The film is shot in impressively long takes juxtaposed with short snappy ones, it is filled with action and suspense and even a little love story that blossoms between Zero and a girl who works in a bakery, who intelligently helps the two with their mission. There is something very interesting in the way that ‘story’ is played with in this film, it begins with the opening of the writer’s book. We see the writer has collected his story, told it and moved on to travel for new stories leaving behind the characters who live the rest of their lives. Most of all it is entertaining, faced-paced and hilarious. It is well worth a watch and I find it difficult to poke holes in a such flawless production.