WARNING: Please be aware if you have not seen the film that a few spoilers lie ahead.
After a much-anticipated arrival in the early months of 2014, Wes Anderson’s latest blockbuster, The Grand Budapest Hotel, certainly did not disappoint. Whilst exhibiting an array of famous faces such as Owen Wilson, Jude Law and Bill Murray, Anderson’s flaunting of well-known actors does not detract from the magnificent, compelling plot of this comedy-drama.
Based on the books of the late Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, Anderson’s masterpiece follows the story of Gustave H, the infamous concierge of the fictional legendary Grand Budapest Hotel. Gustave soon finds himself taking the new lobby boy, Zero Moustafa, under his wing, and a complex unlikely friendship is born. Although it is set during World War One and World War Two, The Grand Budapest Hotel is certainly not a story about war. Instead, the narrative is one of love, tragedy and above all; companionship.
Present vs. The Past
The beginning of the story sees a young writer (based on Stefan Zweig) visit the hotel at the present day, this is when he meets an elderly Zero. The film then essentially becomes a snapshot of Zero’s storytelling of his own formative days as the new lobby boy at The Grand Budapest. Both the young writer and Zero are in the present, looking in on the past, and this is vital when understanding the structure of the film – it not only illustrates the universal and constant dwelling on the past, but also demonstrates how a simple moment of storytelling can force two strangers to become closer in an instant, whilst also bringing audiences closer to them at the same time. The ongoing flickering between present and past in The Grand Budapest Hotel, although seemingly elaborate and confusing, should never put off a viewer as it only serves to exhibit the complex and layered storytelling held by many of Anderson’s films.
The Irony of Zero
This is a perfect example in which a character’s name represents their entire life. Lobby boy Zero joins the hotel with nothing, only to gain everything. He has no family, no money, and no friends, therefore leaving the anxious newcomer with solely the hotel as a site of comfort, and, there is no doubt this pays off. Zero stands as a character to represent the multiple people who lived unfavorably throughout the two world wars, and the hardships that came with this, he shows audiences the fight with poverty that was previously faced by so many. However, towards the end of the film, and following the tragic and abrupt death of Gustave, Zero inherits the entire hotel after being left it by Gustave, this, therefore, creates his name to be a refuting prophecy for his future.
In this particular film of Anderson’s, death is a running theme throughout, which hardly comes as a surprise due to the film being set between the two world wars. Despite this, many of the deaths in the movie aren’t those of army personnel, yet rather normal people who are never caught up in targeted war violence. The death of one character seems to bring a poignant moment of heartbreak for another character, for example; the death of Madame D. brings a brief moment of mourning to Gustave, and then a long-lasting legacy of wealth. This is then seen in the closing moments of the film when Zero receives similar fate upon the death of Gustave, it’s almost as if things come round full circle when we reach the end of the story.
Words by Georgia Hinson