Clenching the Nomination - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Can't Stop the Movies
17Feb/150

Clenching the Nomination – The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Kyle discusses the scene in Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel that he thinks secured the film's Best Picture nomination. You can check out all of our overall guesses on the major Oscar categories for 2015 here.

The Grand Budapest HotelKyle Commentary Banner

The Grand Budapest Hotel introduces no less than three layers of flashback in its first 10 minutes, in a move that draws attention to the over-the-top artifice Wes Anderson has made so distinctly his own. It's an opening that, were it not for the deeper themes of the film, could come off as a kind of cloying embrace of nostalgia—an attempt to lend a superficial sense of deeper relevance by reminding the audience not once, but twice, that the events to follow are being recounted now so as not to be forgotten to history.

But like so much of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson has more vision and control than we might suspect embedded in such an ostensibly silly maneuver. We soon forget that we're not in the film's original, contemporary time at all, with only some conventional voice-over narration provided by the much-older version of Zero (played as an older man by F. Murray Abraham) breaking in here and there. The insular world of the titular hotel is so compelling and refreshing at first that it's easy to forget that the story as we're seeing it is actually Zero's narration filtered through a third man, a writer played by both Jude Law and Tom Wilkinson at different points in time.

All of this is a roundabout way of getting to the scene I think secured The Grand Budapest Hotel's nomination without simply saying “every scene with Ralph Fiennes in it” (as I suspect is actually the case), and that's the very last one. By the end of the film, we've gone through a surprising amount of plot for just 100 minutes—Anderson makes such effective use of character types and narrative tropes that we can jump from one event to another with minimal exposition without things feeling disjointed—and the end result is a feeling not just of sentimental nostalgia for these characters, but of a bittersweet loss of this unique space and time.

The final shots—of a young girl reading the story we've just watched at the base of a statue commemorating the unnamed author played by Law/Wilkinson—yank the comfortable and by then familiar world of M. Gustave and friends out from under us. With no more than a few endnotes from the older Zero and the writer briefly describing the fates of the major characters, we're pulled out of the story and deposited again back into the present, and Anderson's initially curious decision to focus at this very point on a young reader of little narrative consequence shines a light on how stories (and consequently history) function. What happened in actuality is one thing, but the role of storytellers and their audience, who eventually go on to tell the story themselves, is where meaning and cultural significance is made.

This scene could seem inconsequential, but it confirms what we feel throughout the entirety of The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is that despite its superficial pleasures and entertainments, and underneath the manufactured nostalgia Anderson navigates so deftly, there's actually something to it.

Posted by Kyle Miner

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