Updated: Sep 10, 2019
The Grand Budapest Hotel was not the first movie to draw inspiration from the lavish interiors of an archetypal European hotel...
At the 2015 Academy Awards it came as little surprise when The Grand Budapest Hotel nabbed the Oscar for Best Achievement in Production Design. The movie took us on a memorable jaunt through Zubrowka – a fictional province in Old Europe. Production Designer Adam Stockhausen succeeded in creating an impressionistic land with Slavic flavours that on screen looked as though it had sprung to life from the pages of a picture story book. Who could forget the image of the lavish hotel perched aloft on rugged, snow-capped peaks? And who could forget the pink, funicular rail car tracking slowly up a mountain face?
It’s at the Grand Budapest Hotel that we first meet the congenial concierge Monsieur Gustave and an ensemble of motley characters. What follows is a false accusation of murder, and an adventure across the Continent in pursuit of exoneration. A wild, alpine landscape provides a dramatic backdrop to the story as it unfolds, but it’s the presentation of the fabulously lush hotel that sends imaginations soaring back to an age of gilded grandeur.
Wes Anderson’s affectionate portrait of an eccentric concierge is not the first film to draw inspiration from the opulent interiors of a European hotel. Edmund Goulding’s 1932 cinematic classic Grand Hotel is set almost entirely within a luxury Berlin hotel that becomes the stage on which the dramas of various guests play out. Some characters coincide in seemingly unrelated fashion, whilst the paths of others become entangled during their residency at The Grand Hotel. The film starred Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, and Joan Crawford and was a runaway hit with audiences and critics alike. Moreover, it gave rise to the ‘Grand Hotel theme,’ a term now used to describe a story set in a singular location where the activities of various characters become entwined. John Cleese’s landmark comedy Fawlty Towers could be described in a similar vein!
In each of these celluloid stories the hotel is as intrinsic to the plot as the characters themselves. For a recently completed article I found myself researching the archetypal European Hotel, and in particular the use of cast iron and glass to convey luxury. For full article, follow the link below!