(arts) grand budapest hotel (coutresy of twentieth century fox)

Despite being overshadowed by the threat of war, the Grand Budapest Hotel, in the 1932 fictional European republic of Zubrowka, places comfort and luxury above all else with the help of their most devoted concierge, Monsieur Gustave in Wes Anderson’s film named for the hotel.

After the success of “Moonrise Kingdom,” which earned him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, Wes Anderson presents fans with a satirical homage to old world luxury. While the main actors in the film include Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe, appearances are made by Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson.

The film begins at the graveyard site of “The Author,” with a girl reading the memoirs of a trip the author took to the Grand Budapest Hotel in the 1960s. The young “author,” played by Jude Law, walks the faded carpets of the infamous hotel, staffed by only a few employees. Although the hotel looks to be in a continuous off-season, he meets a special guest: the owner of the Grand Budapest, Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham). Over dinner, Zero agrees to tell the story of how he came to own the hotel.

Zero’s story begins in 1932, in the glory days of the Grand Budapest Hotel. As a young lobby boy, Zero (Revolori) adopts Concierge Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) as a mentor. Although M. Gustave upholds the professionalism of the Grand Budapest, he has numerous affairs with the wealthy older women that stay there.

Madame D., M. Gustave’s regular lover, passes away and leaves a valuable painting called “Boy with Apple” to M. Gustave, rather than to her son Dmitri (Brody). To ensure the safety of “Boy with Apple,” Zero and M. Gustave steal the painting and secure it at the Grand Budapest Hotel, resulting in their need to flee the law, led by Police Inspector Henkels (Norton) and Dmitri’s murderous henchman (Dafoe).

What follows are a series of movie conventions that Anderson revisits in unique ways. Ruthless murders, a ski slope chase, a dramatic gunfight and a prison escape using miniature mallets and chisels create the absurdist setting of “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

Although the film is several period pieces in one as it jumps from 1987 to the 1960s and finally to 1932, the costume design does not entirely represent the periods. Instead, the costumes, which are bright and captivating, represent the main characters’ personalities and motives. For example, throughout the film M. Gustave and Zero remain in their bright, purple hotel uniforms to show their loyalty to the Grand Budapest. Also, although the 1930s are shown in the cut and color of clothes worn by Zero’s love interest Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), the main antagonist of the story, Dmitri, is dressed in a flamboyant all-black ensemble with his henchman wearing skull rings.

The set design is able to capture the shabbiness of the hotel in its later years, yet show that the hotel was once luxurious. The story reveals the splendor of the Grand Budapest Hotel in 1932 with bright colors and chandeliers and an endless amount of staff to wait upon the guests.

However, the most significant piece of set design is the miniature hotel model that Anderson uses to depict the “grand” scope of the Grand Budapest Hotel. Rather than using an expensive digital shot to include the wonderful architecture of the hotel and beautiful landscape behind it in a single shot, Anderson chose to use a scale model. This method reminds the audience of the fact that M. Gustave’s story is just that: a story. The film’s meta-fiction is also revealed at the beginning of the film with the girl reading M. Gustave’s story and with the idea that the audience needs to move far into the past in order to reach the events.

Ralph Fiennes takes the spotlight in “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” despite the numerous appearances of Anderson’s other collaborators. He dives into his role as M. Gustave diligently, using pitch and rhythm in his voice to show M. Gustave’s overly self-confident, tense but always controlled character. Anderson seems to focus on M. Gustave’s dialogue the most and makes his outbursts the comedic relief of most of the movie. However, as witty as Anderson’s writing is, the comedy of the character relies on M. Gustave’s vulgar outbursts amidst elevated speech to shock the audience.

Anderson’s films reflect a signature style of filmmaking, using eccentric characters, ironic humor and melodramatic plot points to entrance the audience. Anderson also uses the element of keys throughout “The Grand Budapest Hotel” as a visual representation of the theme of opportunity in the film.

“The Author’s” grave marker is covered with keys by adoring fans, while keys are also shown repeatedly in the Grand Budapest and the prison. In a plea for help, Zero and M. Gustave turn to the Society of the Crossed Keys, a network of concierges from grand hotels throughout the world helping each other in dire need. The help from these concierges allows Zero and M. Gustave to find a solution to their troubles.

Although not every character benefits in the end from this great adventure, there’s a feeling of triumph left at the close of the film. Through networks, hotels or admiration, the keys seem to unlock doors to new opportunities and successes, much like Zero moving from being lobby boy to owner of the Grand Budapest Hotel.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is now playing in theaters.

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