The Grand Budapest Hotel is a film which is directed by famous director Wes Anderson. The story takes place in a fictional eastern European city called Zumbroka, in a prestigious establishment named The Grand Budapest Hotel. The hotel’s concierge, Mr. Gustave, shows interest in the elderly and wealthy women staying at the hotel. 

One day, Madame D., one of these women, is found dead in her mansion, and the adventure begins with Mr. Gustave and his apprentice, a lobby boy called Zero, on their way to Madame D.’s mansion. We learn their story years later by the narration of Zero, who is known as Mr. Moustafa, and managed to become the owner of the hotel. He speaks about his history with Mr. Gustave with a writer, who accommodates at the hotel, and later the writer publishes a book about The Grand Budapest Hotel. Although the film indicates the second world war and its effect on society in a very immersive and expressive way, the film is distinguished with its meticulously prepared set and product designs strengthening the narrative rather than its story.

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Mr. Gustave and Zero  © Fox Searchlight Pictures

Timeline of The Movie | Grand Budapest Hotel

The film starts in a cemetery in a Zumbroka with a realistic and muted color palette; compared with the rest of the film, it has an impression that it is the post-communist era. We see a girl holding a book, visiting the book’s author’s statue in the cemetery. Then we see the author speaking while the year was written on the bottom of the screen as 1985. He announces that he will tell someone else’s story, and he begins the story with his arrival at the Grand Budapest Hotel in 1968. He meets Mr. Moustafa at the hotel then convinces him to speak about the story behind his wealth. Eventually, the story of Mr. Gustave and Zero in 1932, the times when The Grand Budapest Hotel was splendiferous, starts to be narrated. Herewith, in the first ten minutes of the movie, the story was narrated at four different periods. Although Wes Anderson makes the time warps perceptible by changing the color palettes, he changes the aspect ratio according to the time to disambiguate the time. For 1985 he uses today’s standard widescreen aspect ratio, 2.35 to 1 aspect ratio, which was prominent in the 80s, and 1986, and academy ratio of 1.37 to 1, which was typical for 1932. Thus, this detail denotes that Wes Anderson and the team that worked on the film paid attention to every detail in the movie and made sure it parallels and contributes to the story.

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Opening Scene_©
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The Grand Budapest Hotel in 1932_ ©

The Grand Budapest Hotel’s Post War Era

Color palettes are one of the first things that made people excited when it is heard that Wes Anderson is directing a new film, and they are also used effectively in this film. The exterior shooting of the Grand Budapest Hotel, which is also featured on the movie’s poster, made the hotel and movie identified with pink color, which represents innocence, goodness, and nostalgia. Scenes shot in 1932’s The Grand Budapest Hotel contain colors like pink, red in the exterior and interior, while the color gold on the embellishments contributes to the hotel’s atmosphere. These colors represent the prestige once the hotel had. However, the rest of the world does not contain bright colors as the hotel does, and the scenes outside of the hotel usually appear monochromatic. Dark greys and blacks were seen when evil characters appeared on the scene. Scenes in Madam D.’s mansion where it was filled with relatives who are rushed to share her legacy, and prison, where dangerous criminals are punished, are great examples that show the hardwired evilness in the spaces. The usage of vivid colors is also associated with Mr. Gustave’s bright personality; therefore, wherever he and Zero go, they bring the hotel’s colors or aesthetic to the scene, or the color of their uniform shows that they are not proper to fit the dark-colored places. 

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Grand Budapest Hotel Movie Poster _ © 20th Century Fox
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Mr. Gustave’s First Appearance in Pink Interior of Grand Budapest Hotel_ © Fox Searchlight Pictures
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Mr. Gustave and Madame D. in Elevator_ © Fox Searchlight Pictures
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Mr. Gustave and Zero Wearing Purple Uniforms_ © Fox Searchlight Pictures
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Madame D.’s Son Waiting for Lawyer to Announce His Share from Her Legacy _ ©Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Grand Budapest Hotel is Taken Over by Dark Colors

During the war, we saw The Grand Budapest Hotel occupied by the Nazis. The hotel still maintains its pink color, but it is not bright like before the war. Also, the pink exterior was disrupted by black flags that have Nazi emblems on them. In the interior, the color pink also has remained; however, the hotel started to accommodate soldiers who wear dark grey uniforms or wealthy men who wear black suits and who support Nazi’s like Madame D.’s son Dimitri. That symbolizes the evilness that infiltrated the hotel. After proving Mr. Gustave’s innocence, the hotel returns to its glamorous days for a while, but it ends with Mr. Gustave being killed by the Nazis. The scene that shows his death was shot in black and white to express: all the colors that have left the world. Mr. Gustave’s death shows that goodness and innocence will eventually disappear in a world under the rule of racist, cruel, and totalitarian people.

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Nazi Flags Occupying Grand Budapest Hotel _ ©Fox Searchlight Pictures
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Nazi Concierge’s Uniform_ ©Fox Searchlight Pictures

Pink Has Gone

In 1968, when the author met with Mr. Moustafa, the war had ended, colors were back; however, it was not the same. The pinks were replaced with yellows, browns, and oranges, and The Grand Budapest Hotel lost its mesmerizing atmosphere. In the interior, there are some automats for cigarettes, coffee, and teas. The ceiling was covered with lightings that spread cold light, and some signs, that are not functional, hung out randomly, which distorts the symmetry that can be perceived in the hotel until 1968. Another thing that has changed is the season. We saw the hotel during the winter season during the story, but in the scenes in 1968, it was autumn. The color palette of autumn harmonizes with the hotel’s new colors, and it represents an ending for The Grand Budapest Hotel, like autumn is the last and closing season of the year. 

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The Grand Budapest Hotel in 1968_ ©Fox Searchlight Pictures
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The Grand Budapest Hotel’s interior in 1968_ ©Fox Searchlight Pictures

Scenes Like Pictures

The scenes where the story was told were almost like moving pictures with depth taken from a book. This effect was prominent, especially in the hotel’s exterior shots and funicular scenes. Because the hotel and funicular were the models which are made out of cardboards. Most of the locations and set decors were created by the film’s production designer, Adam Stockhausen, and his team by hand. Thus, CGI was used less, and it made the film more realistic. Some directors and production designers might not prefer using too many computer-based special effects on the film because it may look unrealistic and inharmonious if it is poorly made. Or even if it looks fine now, it might not be considered as good-looking as it was once in the future. Also, at the beginning of the film, we saw a book named The Grand Budapest Hotel on the girl’s hand in the cemetery. That implies that people from Zumbroka learned the story of Mr. Gustave and Zero from the book, and now the film is conveying the story to the audience as if the pictures in the book have gained depth. The relationship between the story in the film and the book matches with reality because, at the end of the film, it is stated that the writings of Stefan Zweig inspired the film.

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A Scene of The Grand Budapest Hotel _ ©Fox Searchlight Pictures
The Grand Budapest Hotel’s Sketch _ © Fox Searchlight Pictures
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Miniature Model of The Observatory. Filmed in front of a Green Screen_ © 20th Century Fox
Miniature Model of The Grand Budapest Hotel Being Filmed in Front of a Green Screen_ © Fox Searchlight Pictures

Shooting Locations

The production designer, Adam Stockhausen, the Cinematographer, Robert Yeoman, and Wes Anderson worked together while deciding the actual venues where the scenes will be shot. The team was expecting to find a hotel with the esthetic they were looking for. However, they could not find a hotel; instead, they decided to do shootings in an abandoned art nouveau department store in Görlitz, Germany, after being impressed with its architecture. To create the interior, Adam Stockhausen researched the hotels, especially on the hillside in Germany in the 1930s and many inspirations came from the old hotels, such as the idea of the usage of pink on the exterior. Also, locations like Mendel’s confectionery, Madame D.’s mansion, Kunst Museum, and prisons were shot in real buildings using the original architecture.

The Görlitz Warehouse _ ©Wolfgang Pichler
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Molkerei Pfund, Dresden_ ©
A Scene of Mendel’s confectionary shop_ ©20th Century Fox

Key Insights from The Film

The Grand Budapest Hotel is the first film that introduced me to Wes Anderson cinema. What struck me the most when I first watched it was the film’s ability to tell such a dark story without any dramatization. Anderson’s style is based on elaborative choices of the set designs, color palettes, use of light, costume designs, and music that he used. 

The film captivates the audience without spoiling the mood even if it is about tragic stories such as problems and traumas caused by the family in Royal Tenenbaums or the second world war in The Grand Budapest Hotel. But after the movie is over, you realize what a sad thing you watched. That’s why I find Wes Anderson unique in terms of directing. Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the films that best reflect Wes Anderson’s style, and what I like about his style; therefore, it is a movie that I love very much. If you read this article without watching the movie, I suggest watching the film at your nearest time. It is available on Apple Tv, iTunes, and Google Play.

Here is the trailer of the movie:


MügeElmas is currently an architecture student studying at Ozyegin University, Istanbul, in the senior year. After graduation, she aspires to continue her masters. She is interested in all forms of art, but is specifically passionate about movies and set designs, and always seeks new experiences to widen her knowledge about art and architecture.