From the fetching shade of purple uniforms that M Gustav and his employees paraded around in to the garish scarlet interior of the hotel elevators and the fluorescent pink cake boxes that are scattered throughout the film, The Grand Budapest Hotel has an eye-popping backdrop. Mustaches of all shapes, sizes and authenticity abound on the different faces of the male characters while the female characters are just as marked by either vivid birth scars or blood-red lipstick. However the real vibrancy of the film is filtered much more effectively through the quirky and poignant personalities of the story and the secrets they reveal rather than their unusual appearances. Based on a series of historical narratives the entire film spirals into a kaleidoscopic past before looping neatly back to its own beginning, making The Grand Budapest Hotel a truly colorful film.
It opens with a young girl reading a book of the same title next to a bust of the author in a snow-covered graveyard. The film then cuts to the author himself recalling the details of how he created such an incredible story. As a young man (Jude Law) he spent a period of time at The Grand Budapest Hotel where he met the owner, a Mr Mustapha, who recounts his own humble beginnings as a lobby boy ‘Zero’ under the unique tutelage of the hotel’s concierge and main focus of the film, Monsieur Gustav H ( Fiennes). When Madame D. (one of Gustav’s regular guest conquests played by an almost unrecognizable Tilda Swinton) is suddenly discovered dead and possibly murdered he races to her side and is confronted by her entire extended family eagerly awaiting the reading of her will. When it transpires that Madame D. left Gustav one of her most valuable paintings, Gustav and his sidekick Zero steal it before the rather menacing sons of Madame D. can dispute his claim. So begins a twisting and elusive drama played out in the fictional country of Zubrowka at the beginning of the Second World War. The result is a strange collision of casual violence and unexpected tenderness amid random one-liners and innovative comedic exploits. While the relationships in the film seem rather shallow or at least perfunctory in nature, they disguise a much deeper connection that is explored at length throughout the film and particularly in relation to the unfolding historical drama. It is this depth and variety of character, plot and setting that makes The Grand Budapest Hotel a truly colorful film but also director, Wes Anderson’s, best film to date.
At the heart and success of this film is undoubtedly the performance of Fiennes as Monsieur Gustav H. As a lover of ‘cheaper cuts’ of women, over-powering signature perfumes and impeccable pride in his job (he takes catering to a customer’s every whim to whole new levels of dedication), Gustav is a rather enigmatic force of nature whose true persona remains hidden under the ‘illusion’ that he perpetuates. Despite this illusive aspect to his character Fiennes manages to bring a real depth and sympathy to Gustav and his random, often mistimed, profane outbursts only serve to heighten this endearment. The entire cast provides a flawless performance and move seamlessly from serious drama to effortless, deadpan comedy that is as wonderful as it is unexpected. Anderson and his cast manage to combine a heady mix of ingredients that could so easily have unbalanced each other but which, under his deft direction ensure a colorful kaleidoscope of emotions for both the characters and the audience in a film that is truly worth watching and as grand as The Grand Budapest Hotel itself.
By Rhona Scullion