In the Dark

Of Pasteboard and Pastry

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Produced by Scott Rudin Productions and Studio Babelsberg
Directed and written by Wes Anderson
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures


Exceptionally well-made pastries are often said to be lighter than air.  I was reminded of this after watching Wes Anderson’s latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, a confection so airy that the slightest touch of critical scrutiny will likely send it wafting into clouds of Hungarian cream scudding above our heads.  With this in mind, I’ll try to tether my remarks to terra firma.

Anderson makes sure we don’t for a moment think his narrative is earthbound.  It’s studiously artificial, despite taking place against what Monsieur Gustave (an hilariously mannered Ralph Fiennes) refers to as “this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity.”  In stark contrast to this slaughterhouse, in the foreground we see a pink hotel painted on pasteboard, looking exactly like a frosted cake.  It’s a stylized version of European charm between the wars, charm that now seems hopelessly frivolous, given the 150 or so million who died as a result of those heroic engagements.

The film takes place principally in 1932, so the slaughter has ebbed for the moment in Hungary—just a few murders...

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