MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Fox Searchlight
Directed by Wes Anderson. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori.
As long as I can remember, older Christians have always reminded younger generations about how wonderful things were in the good old days. Now that I am older myself, I must confess that things weren’t necessarily that much better (and some things – including mortality rates, racism and international affairs – were much worse). That doesn’t stop me from having warm feelings about the past and wanting to take time to appreciate everything that it has meant to me and how much my life has been a product of past choices and relationships.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig, an Austrian Jewish novelist, playwright and journalist who was born in 1881 and lived through the First World War and the rise of National Socialism. His novels were filled with colorful characters and were quite popular in America. As Hitler came to power, Zweig despaired of European civilization, immigrating with his wife to Brazil in 1940. He and his wife died of drug overdoses in 1942.
If this sounds like a glum introduction to a movie, you don’t know the mind of writer-director Wes Anderson. He chooses to celebrate this writer by creating a delightful caper film that’s set in the early 1930s in the fictitious Republic of Zubrowka, somewhere in the Central Europe mountains, where a famous hotel and spa serves as a getaway for folks of different nationalities. The hotel’s head concierge is M. Gustave (Fiennes) who knows how to run the place with style and efficiency. A new lobby boy named Zero (Revolori) arrives and is in need of tutelage. During his time of instruction Gustave becomes a surrogate father. Zero begins courting a local bakery girl (Saoirse Ronan) and Gustave gets embroiled in a controversy over the will of a dying matriarch (Tilda Swinton) and the theft of a beloved painting. The local police are beginning to become a bit more intrusive. The two find themselves on the run.
Wes Anderson is one of my favorite film directors simply because his use of imaginative set design, composed shots, musical scoring, and large casts of eccentric characters, coupled with quick wit and a touch of silliness render his movies entertaining and watchable over multiple viewings. His films usually take place in imaginative storybook settings that allow gentle satire to take place in neutral territory.
The Grand Budapest Hotel begins with an older storyteller remembering a time when he was a young writer who met up with an interesting character who told the story about what happened to him when he was younger. As Christians, we are part of a faith that is founded on stories: Of paradise and the fall, of jealousy and rivalry, of families and tribes, patriarchs and priests, and of a man and his disciples, and a church and its acts of mercy and love. To remember and appreciate the past without becoming overly nostalgic and forlorn is something that we need to do. Wes Anderson’s film is not only a celebration of Stefan Zweig but of the many wonderful filmmakers (including Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder and Fritz Lang) who emigrated to America during the 1930s and made brilliant movies that reflected the style and wit that they first experienced during a less anxious time. They influenced film forever by finding new ways to tell important stories.
Ralph Fiennes delivers a great comedic performance as M. Gustave. I am sure that this role will be remembered for years to come.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a movie best appreciated by film geeks, but it is also one of the most entertaining movies in theaters this year. It’s hard to categorize, but it’s a fun night out. If you can handle the pitchforks (I think that this film could have been made PG-13 with a few changes), you might want to check in at the front desk and stay for a couple of hours
Three halos: A remembrance of things past and a meditation on storytelling, which happens to also be quite engaging.
Three pitchforks: One quick distance shot of a sexual act; an erotic painting; pervasive – but only occasional – swearing; deception; several acts of violence.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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