Wes Anderson's Nostalgia
Wes Anderson’s eighth film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is an excellent study of the modernist struggle in a new century of exploding geopolitical and social changes. Anderson’s film functions on the surface as an adventure-comedy or heist film, but it’s heart pulses with an intimate sense of the questions of loyalty, friendship and nobility. Elements of magical realism are sprinkled throughout and jolting spurts of violence cut in here and there to remind us that the fictional country of Zubrowka is our world. The sharp dialogue navigates you through this wacky world at such a quick pace that the only things to slow you down are the beautiful set designs and an overwhelming lingering sense of nostalgia that permeates the film.
Gustave H., the legendary concierge at the Grand Budapest, is the predominant character that exemplifies Anderson’s nostalgia. At one point he is essentially described as a man who never belonged to the generation he was a part of. This is very similar to the nostalgia of the “Lost Generation” seen in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing. Where Anderson differs from Fitzgerald is Anderson lacks undermining bitterness. Gustave seeks the fineries of higher culture, but has random outbursts of obscenities, which perfectly display his modernist struggle of the cultural explosions of post-WWI.
Other moments of nostalgia are apparent in the character named The Author, as we follow him on his journey of interviewing those who were there in the former glory of the hotel. He is reaching back attempting to grasp what it was that captivated characters like Gustave, Moustafa and others. The film is set within multiple frames, with time-appropriate aspect ratios to aid in following the jumping narrative, and a girl standing at the gravesite of The Author is at both ends. She gazes into the bust before her with his book in her hands. She is filled with hope. The shirt underneath her coat says “mayhem.” Is she a product of Youth Culture? It is 1988. The Berlin Wall would fall the next year.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a fantastical microcosm of the shifting world in the 20th Century. Anderson uses magical realism to observe and critique the darker moments of human nature and human history. Art is a creative way we can look at the past. Anderson provides a fun and magical experience in which to look back at our collective past and see the key events that shaped the 20th Century.