Throughout the history of cinema, there have been a plethora of directors with unique visions and styles, from Stanley Kubrick and Terry Gilliam to the bizarre David Lynch and everyone else in between. These directors infuse the eccentricities of their personalities and imaginations into the medium with a style so distinct that they become the epitome of an auteur. One director in modern film, however, might be known as the quirkiest while he delivers unique masterpieces, even if they might teeter on the self-indulgent side. This director is Wes Anderson.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes Anderson’s latest and promises everything one would expect from him. Yes, you have the blend of comedy and drama that may only be outdone by Woody Allen. However, this is not what makes the eccentric, well, eccentric.
Just by taking a glance at one still from any of his films, and perhaps excluding his first two endeavors, Bottle Rocket and to a lesser extent, Rushmore, one will know without a shadow of a doubt that it is a Wes Anderson picture. His aesthetic is something not seen in other films with a very specific, detail-oriented style that can be overwhelming and arguably too bizarre for the average viewer. There are three different characteristics to this look that he has created that include his specific camera angles, color usage, and the wardrobe and props utilized on the screen.
The first film of Wes Anderson and possibly the most unique in this style is The Royal Tenanbaums. Beyond this film being the first with a long cast list featuring the likes of Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, and frequent collaborators Owen and Luke Wilson, is the fact that it utilizes the perfect combination of unique camera angles.
On one end, Wes Anderson uses an extensive array of wide shots encompassing fast-paced action scenes of running through the city, jumping into pools, and play performances of the grandchildren. He then makes sudden adjustments to extremely close-up shots featuring all of the members of the family with very specific composition. This is incorporated during all of the character introductions as well as intense confrontational moments.
Wes Anderson also precisely delivers ingenuity as the quirkiest director in how he places his objects and actors in the foreground and background of each film, which in turn creates a sense of crowded space, particularly in the dinner table scenes. This isn’t done just for the sake of it, though. The story line in the film is of a grandfather who has not seen his family in years and the creation of differentiating shots of Gene Hackman’s character distant from his family works to great artistic effect.
Elsewhere in his films, many will notice the stark, eccentric colorization featured within. In The Royal Tenanbaums there is an extensive use of bright reds and blues, in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, there are greens, blues, and golds, while his sole stop motion animation picture Fantastic Mr. Fox uses an abundance of oranges, yellows, and browns.
Why does he do this? While the film or English student’s first inclination would be to say that it is symbolism, Anderson truly is not that deep. Instead, what he accomplishes by using these colors is to make his images pop. Furthermore, he makes unforgettable images and stark color clashes that you are unlikely to see in any other film. In fact, one could argue he uses a similar color palette to that of animated films, thus creating a surrealist world.
The way in which Anderson’s novelty truly becomes apparent is his usage of sets and costumes. He surely has a great team of art directors that make his vision a reality, which is an interesting word in the auteur’s world, because it usually does not seem like reality.
Take his most recent film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, for example. In this picture, there is the elaborate hotel that looks very European- or Victorian-era in style. Additionally, you have the fancy attire of actors Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori, identical old European police uniforms worn by Ed Norton and his squad, and the list goes on and on. What is remarkable about this is that he creates these truly unique worlds without the viewer having the slightest sense if what is occurring is in modern times, an old-timey era, or an amalgamation of both.
When all of these pieces are combined, his films are the best example of perfect composition. If the stills in his films were frozen, the pictures look like perfectly conceptualized still photography. Stark and beautifully contrasted colors, eye-popping imagery and camera placement that make scenes truly pop off the screen. He may be the quirkiest director in film, but whenever a Wes Anderson film is released, it delivers visually captivating images to go along with the interesting worlds he creates.
Opinion by Simon Mounsey