"Faint Glimmers of Civilization in This Barbaric Slaughterhouse That Was Once Known as Humanity"
Wes Anderson's latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, takes him out of the contemporary U.S. (as was a visit to India in The Darjeeling Limited) and into pre-war Europe. But, just as Woody Allen's European adventures still feel like transplanted versions of his New York films, despite the change in venue, this one lies squarely in Andersonville.
The framing device is like a set of Matryoshka dolls (which, in turn, are shot in different screen aspect ratios as are illustrated below—a movie version of "nesting"): in the present day, we see the statue of a famous writer, then a filmed address by said writer (played here by Tom Wilkinson), who introduces the tale of how he (in the form of Jude Law) heard the tale originally: on a stay at the relic of a once luxurious hotel and spa for the rich, The Grand Budapest in the Republic of Zubrowka, he meets its reclusive owner, one Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who, for some reason, habitually stays in the one closet-like room reserved for lobby boys. The man is monied, propertied, so what possible reason could there be for such a humble practice?
Over a long dinner in the Grand's nearly empty dining room, Moustafa tells the writer of the heady days of the Grand, pre-War in 1932, when he first arrived and took a position as a lobby boy under the tutelage of Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes, who takes the role between his teeth and wrestles it like a beloved chew-toy), the long-in-standing concierge of the Grand, whose adherence to societal protocol and near-psychic attendance to his guests' needs belies a roué's cynicism and a melancholic (almost necrophiliac) nostalgia for the past. The Grand's hoity-toity love him as he is unfailingly solicitous, calling everyone "darling," and because he will personally see to their whims and desires, even their carnal ones.
But, when one of his "ladies" (with the improbable name of Madame Desgoffe-und-Taxis, played by Tilda Swinton) is found dead after her visit to The GBH, Msr. H. is suspected of murder (a very slow one, evidently). He is accused (by the Madame's son, Dimitri, played by Adrien Brody) arrested and thrown into prison, which then throws the Hotel into disarray. It's a conspiracy of sorts, and it is up to the young lobby-boy to make it right. One does, after all, have to anticipate one's needs in hotelry.
|Present Day: The Telling of the Telling of the Tale
|1968: The Telling of the Tale
|1932: The Tale