“There are still faint glimmers of civilisation left in this barbaric slaughter house known as humanity…he was one of them.” How can you not love a film which incorporates humour, violence, poetry, art and war. It’s absurd, funny, witty, exciting, touching, tinged with sadness colourful and exuberant.
I’ll try and encapsulate the story line…
Centred around the life and times of Gustave. H (Ralph Finnes) a Gatsbyeque, Queensbury rules , concierge at the famous Grand Budapest Hotel. Zero, the lobby boy (Tony Revolori) becomes Gustave’s protege, learning the ways of the highest level of service and how to satisfy (uh hum) the rich elderly women who stay in the hotel. When one day, one of Gustave’s “ladies” dies, he rushes to her, to find that he as been left a painting, but is later framed for murder of the old dear, as it’s uncovered there was a late adjustment to the will. This ensues a prison break, a series of chases, assistance from the cross key society and finally a shoot out and his name being cleared. There is a side line of Zero and Agatha, which brings a love story in to the piece which is simultaneously touching and comical.
I have to say, while the story line is a little contrite and I worked out the twists within the first 15 minutes of the film being on, it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the piece as actually, the true masterpiece of this is the filming, stunning visuals and different techniques used to convey each part of the story, which is just a vehicle to bring another filming style to the movie.
The aesthetics of this film have been described in reviews as “as filigree chocolate box” and they are not wrong. The screen is filled with bright colours and grand luxurious sets which seep the viewer in to the Art Deco world of the 1930s. There are moments where the live action chases almost feel like stop graphic animation, giving the impression that the viewer is watching a metal wind up toy, resonating other works of Wes Anderson (such as Fantastic Mr Fox).
I’m going to put it out there….I am not a Ralph Finnes fan…but this film has possibly turned that around with his quintessentially English performance of Gustave. Presenting as the ultimate gentleman and mentor, as his situation deteriorates he never looses the stiff upper lip approach, but His langauge gets ever more filled with profanity, which could have been perceived as crude and unnecessary, but actually adds to the character over all.
The script is filled with faced paced dialogue and there is never a lag in the story line, which coupled with the stunning filming keeps the viewer intrigued and entertained.
This film could be seen as a social commentary in the decline of the golden age, with the hotel falling to failure when it is finally left to Zero, which pulls up the darker undertones of this piece, as while the films bright colours gives it an almost cartoon like edge, there is the undercurrents of prostitution, murder, exile, anti-semitism and disease, but this is waltzed around like a kid on a tea cup ride, never really allowing the viewer to dwell too long on this underbelly of currupt behaviour and death.
If, like me you had never even considered watching this film, I urge you to as this is like taking a long weekend to a different time and place in an hour and a half and staying right in the comfort of your own sofa.