Wes Anderson is weird. Everything he does is weird. If you say you don’t like Wes Anderson films, you’re a liar.
Anderson has given us his most visually stunning film yet. The Grand Budapest Hotel appears to be set in a pinkish jewelry box, a delicately fabled adaption of the writings of Stefan Zweig, a popular Austrian novelist.
Everyone’s here, all of Anderson’s muses: Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson.
Budapest may be his most violent film to date. Someone’s fingers get sliced off, a cat is thrown from a window, there’s a severed head, Tilda Swinton looks terrifying, and various people get shot and bludgeoned with guns.
The film is a collection of stories within stories, layered like Russian stacking dolls, each one existing in its own world, with its own rules, told by a different narrator. By the end, you’re not sure what is true and what is embellishment, what is fact and what is fantasy, but it doesn’t matter. In Anderson’s hands, it’s a pleasure to simply be strung along, unsure of where you’re going but enjoying the ride.
The film is set in Zubrowka, a European alpine state that doesn’t exist, and takes place in various different time periods (the 1970s, 30s and 40s) in and around a luxurious mountain hotel. The manager of the hotel is a distinctly fabulous queen (“I go to bed with all my friends”) played splendidly by Ralph Fiennes.
The country is on the verge of war. Men in jackboots stop trains to check for travel papers and shoot anyone traveling illegally. With its layered structure, the film calls attention to the idea of history as a biased narrative told by victors and conquerors, omitting, repeatedly, the poor and oppressed.
Creating this film from a preexisting body of work, Anderson is the first biased narrator in this multilayered fable. And thank goodness! He’s one we completely trust.