Slapstick in the Grandhotel: The Silver bear 2014

Article published on Feb. 22, 2014
Article published on Feb. 22, 2014

An overly per­fumed concierge, a lobby boy with a painted-on mus­tache and the my­se­ri­ous death of an  old, ir­ri­ta­ble count­ess trans­late into suc­cess. The Sil­ver Bear of the 64th Berlin In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val goes to Wes An­der­son's The Grand Bu­dapest Hotel. Rightfully so? Film re­view.

Within a tiny, bright red el­e­va­tor are one of the concierges and a young ap­pli­cant for the po­si­tion of lobby boy. "Why do you want to be a lobby boy?" asks concierge Mon­sieur Gus­tave H (Ralph Fi­ennes) of the young Zero Moustafa (Toni Revolori). "Who wouldn't?" is his re­sponse. With that, a strong friend­ship and the open­ing of Wes An­der­son's tur­bu­lent story kick-off. The Grand Bu­dapest Hotel, which is the name of the film, was the open­er for the Berli­nale.

The set­ting is a gor­geous hotel in the spa re­sort Nebels­bad, a town in the fic­tional east­ern eu­ro­pean re­pub­lic of Zubrowka. Since the be­gin­ning of the 1930s, concierge Mon­sier Gus­tave has been cul­ti­vat­ing deep re­la­tion­ships with his guests. Love af­fairs with older women is seen by him to be per­fectly nor­mal. One of them is the 84 year old Madame Céline Vil­leneuve Des­goffe and Taxis (Tilda Swin­ton). Madame D for short. The ir­ri­ta­ble coun­tress be­queathes a valu­able Re­nais­sance paint­ing to him. Her fam­ily, how­ever, isn't fond of the idea. With­out hes­i­ta­tion the concierge and lobby boy make a get­away with the paint­ing safely stored in their lug­gage. What fol­lows are a se­ries of pur­suits to se­cure the for­tune of the de­ceased count­ess. At the same time, at­tempts are made to solve the mys­te­ri­ous death of Madame D.

Of­fi­cial Trailer of The Grand Bu­dapest Hotel from di­rec­tor Wes An­der­son (2013)

The Grand Bu­dapest Hotel is a ful­mi­nant crime-com­edy with bit­ter-sweet un­der­tones. It's a film about loy­alty and friend­ship in the fore­ground of a Eu­rope that's dra­mat­i­cally chang­ing. The film shows the tran­si­tion from a golden age to a fas­cist takeover. We even see the as­cen­scion of the com­mu­nist regime. For his film, Wes An­der­son cre­ated his own uni­verse. In­spired by the sto­ries of the aus­trian writer Ste­fan Zweig, An­der­son ripped off the en­tire his­tory of 20th cen­tury Eu­rope. This is un­der­scored through a con­stantly chang­ing vi­sual aes­thetic. In the be­gin­ning, the Grand Bu­dapest, which can only be reached by cog-and-pin­ion rail­way, is grandiose and lux­u­ri­ous with or­na­ments and mar­velous de­tails. In the end it's only a func­tional hotel with­out any lux­u­ries. More­over, the cas­tle of Madame D's fam­ily car­ries the mark­ings of a fas­cist takeover. Every­thing in­side is dark and comes across as ruth­less.

Every day a newly painted mus­tache

The loom­ing cat­a­stro­phe is also re­flected in the char­ac­ters. An­der­son de­vel­oped won­der­fully lav­ish and ex­ag­ger­ated char­ac­ters, such as Madame D's son Dim­itri (Adam Brody). His hair, clothes, thoughts, out­look and every­thing else about him is dark. Mon­sieur Gus­tave by con­trast is very el­e­gant, al­ways aware of his looks and wears a lit­tle too much per­fume. But above all, he's loyal. Loyal to­ward the hotel, his guests and his friends. The same goes for Mon­sieur Gus­tave's protégé Zero Moustafa, who is just as aware of his looks, which is why he paints him­self a mus­tache every day.

The char­ac­ters ac­tions are just as crazy as they themselves are. Things con­stantly be­come tur­bu­lent, and through chore­o­graphed, slap­stick mo­ments, the viewer is re­minded of the era of silent films. One such com­i­cal scene is the res­cue op­er­a­tion car­ried out by the "So­ci­ety of the Crossed Keys." Mon­sieur Gus­tave rushes to the aid of the Se­cret So­ci­ety, a com­plex broth­er­hood made up of the best concierges (Bill Mur­ray, among oth­ers). A mon­tage en­sues of one concierge in­form­ing his lobby boy, who then calls an­other concierge to in­form his lobby boy.

The Grand Bu­dapest Hotel is daz­zling, wry and vexing, just like Wes An­der­son's ear­lier films like The Royal Ten­nen­baums (2001) or Dar­jeel­ing Lim­ited (2007). Wes An­der­son succeeds in cre­at­ing a crit­i­cal com­edy of a dark time in Eu­rope's his­tory.

CA­FÉ­BA­BEL BER­LIN BEI DER 64. BER­LI­NA­LE

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