Wes Anderson’s Sublimity in Pink

I’ve watched this film several times and I always notice something new. This time around watching it was the first that I noticed the different film formats. I noticed that some scenes were reminiscent of “flat” silent cinema while others reminded me of 1930’s gangster films. The narrative structure of The Grand Budapest Hotel is an Mise en abyme, a story within a story within a story (x4). Each “layer” of the story is narrated in a different time period with its own distinct mise en scene and “feel”. The mise en scene of the hotel reflects the characters within their times. Also, the aspect ratio is different for each layer and closely reflects the film ratio used for that particular time period of Hollywood. Most of the story takes place in the last two layers or time periods (1960 and 1932), as the story line works backwards. The original author retells his recollection of how he (as a young man) was relayed the story by Zero and his memory of M. Gustave, the protagonist and concierge of the Grand Budapest.
The mise en scene during 1960 setting is a bright orange, gold & brown color scheme reflecting a 60s modernism and functionality, and is shot in beautiful wide screen format. This allows you to see the size of the dining/ballroom and imagine the hotel’s former glory. The hotel has lost most of its former “panache” and optimism and has succumbed to a drab, resigned modernity. In bright contrast is the mise en scene of the original hotel in 1932 with its gorgeous art nouveau interior, pastelly pinks, and vivid reds and purples which reflects a more naïve, refined and opulent time. Andersen’s spares no details in staging and each set-up is both lush and meticulous. He uses high key and soft lighting and he shoots most of film very “flat” with minimal depth. His shots are also symmetrical, one shot “mirroring” the next. The combination of these elements creates the buoyant, comedic, and slapstick-like tone of the film.


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