Everything Wes Anderson does is weird and wonderful and his latest masterpiece, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is no exception. The film, his most visually stunning work to date, is a pink jewelry box of interlocking stories led by Ralph Fiennes in the starring role of M. Gustave, the concierge of an elegant mountainside resort in the (fictional) Republic of Zubrowka.
It may also be his most violent film. Someone’s fingers get sliced off, a cat is thrown out of a window, there’s a severed head, and various people get shot and bludgeoned. Its violence contrasts jarringly with its delicate, storybook color palate and vintage-feeling cinematography.
Zubrowka, a European alpine state, is an area of conflict for most of the film, which explores themes of fascism and cruelty — all in pretty, picturesque settings — over different periods (the 1970s, ’30s, and ’40s). M. Gustave is a fabulous queen (“I go to bed with all my friends”) who gets framed for the murder of a wealthy dowager (Tilda Swinton). After that, a chase for a stolen painting ensues involving a menacing hitman (Willem Dafoe) and a thrilling sleigh ride. It’s nothing like you expect it to be and exactly what you need.
The whole thing feels like an antique, a very delicate narrative in which the grisly backdrop of war is paired with oddball comedy and real heart. Jackboots are checking trains and checking for travel papers and shooting people on site. With its layered structure, the film calls attention to the idea of history as a biased narrative told by conquerors and overlooks the poor, queer, and non-white.
The film was inspired by the work of 1920s Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig, making Anderson its first biased narrator and one we completely trust. He takes us to a bewildering dreamland that echoes the darkest parts of our history and sees us safely through. Book your stay immediately.