The Grand Budapest Hotel: a tale of the day before yesterday’s Europe and its values
The Grand Budapest Hotel has established itself as a fairy tale film, although formally it is a tragicomedy. However, one of the best films by Wes Anderson is indeed a fairy tale, in which several layers of meaning can be distinguished. It is also a tale about a beggar, but a kind and efficient orphan Mustafa, who, as it should be, eventually succeeded and became rich. This is also the legend of the great, unsurpassed, ideal senior concierge, Monsieur Gustav, who circled his main enemy Dmitry, suspiciously similar to Dracula, around his finger. But, most importantly, this is a tale of wasted time, a bygone era, and it is no coincidence that the name of Stefan Zweig is mentioned in the film’s credits.
What works of Zweig formed the basis of the script?
The classic of Austrian literature S. Zweig is known as a master of an action-packed novel, but you should not look for a work in his collected works called “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. The filmmakers were inspired not by stories, but by the writer’s book of memoirs “Yesterday’s World”. True, there is no luxury hotel and its inhabitants in this book, but there is something more there: the perception of European civilization, which existed before the First World War, as Atlantis, which disappeared without a trace. According to Zweig, that world – and that Europe – was complex, ambiguous, but human and beautiful. This view is shared by Anderson, but the world, yesterday for Zweig, for us is already a distant past, which is emphasized by the very first frames of the film.
What is the meaning of the first frames?
At the beginning of the film, we see a girl walking through the old cemetery to the monument to the author of the book The Grand Budapest Hotel. The girl adds another key to the keys that decorate the monument, and looks at the photo of the author of the book on the cover. It can be assumed that this scene is taking place today. Then we are transported to 1985, when the writer was still alive, and listen to his memories of a trip to the famous hotel in 1968, where the owner of the hotel and once the richest man of Zubrovka, Mr. Mustafa, told him about the extraordinary events that took place in 1932 G.
Why does the director take so long to get to the plot: is it really only for the sake of a fabulous beginning? Of course not. First, the viewer is made to understand that everything that he sees is a version of events through the eyes of Mustafa. Secondly, having the dates clearly marked helps to understand the concept of the film.
What is special about the concept of the film?
The main event in the life of Mustafa was the meeting with Monsieur Gustav, which took place in the era when “Grand Budapest” was still magnificent. By 1968, little of the splendor remained, but the hotel itself is still standing, and witnesses of its glory are alive. By 1985, the hotel had already been demolished, there are no witnesses, but there is an author who carefully records everything that he once heard from an eyewitness. And nowadays only a book remains from the era of “Grand Budapest”.
This is approximately how any era goes – first the main characters of the events (Monsieur Gustav), then eyewitnesses, then those who heard their stories. And when no one can say how everything really happened, the turn of legends and fairy tales begins. Anderson tells exactly such a tale about the past of Europe.
Where does the film take place?
As the credits say, events unfold in the Republic of Zubrovka on the farthest eastern border of the European continent. Needless to say, such a state never existed, and Zubrovka is one of the types of vodka? But do not confuse the artistic technique and the confusion typical of Americans with European geography. Zubrovka, which was once the center of the empire, is a generalized image of all states that arose on the ruins of Austria-Hungary, and at the same time a conditional fabulous space.
Who is Monsieur Gustave?
The charming Monsieur Gustave is not only the main character of the film, around which all its events revolve. He is a living embodiment not even of Europe in the 1930s, but of Zweig’s “yesterday’s world”, i.e. the European civilization that existed before 1914. The aged Mustafa directly speaks of this: the time of Gustav ended even before his birth. And here the world of the film acquires another dimension: in fact, the nostalgia experienced by its heroes is nostalgia not for the interwar period, but for the golden age of Art Nouveau (it is no coincidence that the hotel was built in this style), great empires and great people.
But what was that century really like? We can only guess about this, looking at the controversial Monsieur Gustav. He is a brilliant professional, impeccably brought up, charming, graceful – and at the same time lonely and inclined to sleep with all his friends. But the main thing that attracts the senior concierge is his sense of honor and organizational skills. Under Monsieur Gustave, everything worked like clockwork in the hotel – and is it really so important what he did in his free time?
Perhaps this was the world destroyed by the First World War: a little dissolute, a little strange, but with unshakable ideas of honor and duty. And also humane in the broadest sense of the word.
Why is Monsieur Gustave dying?
The shooting of Monsieur Gustav after the outbreak of a war strongly reminiscent of World War II only seems to be a sudden plot move: in fact, it is highly logical. The world of which the magnificent concierge was embodied finally perished in 1939. In the era of Auschwitz and Treblinka, ideas of nobility and honor turned out to be poorly compatible with reality: in a new world ruled by violence, Monsieur Gustav is doomed.
What’s the point of the movie?
Despite the sad ending, Anderson’s film is full of optimism. Yes, epochs are leaving with their heroes, and we cannot stop time. But nothing leaves without a trace: there will always be someone who will tell about the past, and someone who will write the story.
The hotel, which ceased to exist in reality, came to life on the pages of a book read by young people (the popularity of the book is evidenced by the number of keys with which the monument to the Author is adorned) – and became immortal.
And if stories are replaced by fairy tales – well, that has its advantages. Fairy tales are close and understandable to everyone, especially if they are told the way Wes Anderson does.