There’s a difficulty in any retrospective when it comes to the recent past. Sometimes there’s a tendency to include something before its merits have fully been sussed-out…granting it neo-classic status when it might just be a passing phase. Just as possible is to discount a recent selection, believing that it benefits from hype and hasn’t actually earned its stripes yet. For me, that’s why it’s always difficult to compile groupings that gather the best of a time frame when we haven’t had time to close the book and let things settle.
So where the decade so far is concerned, which films from just last year would one include? Perhaps the widely agreed-upon critical darling? Perhaps the now-even-more-timely title that topped my own Best of 2015 list? What about the Oscar winner? All selections that could be debated at-length, but even in the face of my own top dog, there’s one film from 2014 that I know has stuck with me and earned its place amongst the greats, and that’s Wes Anderson’s opus, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL.
When I first watched this nesting doll of a film, I was deeply smitten by all of its twee elegance. I found myself wanting to wander around that lush hotel…to explore the countryside of Zubrowka…to taste the delicious confections that Mendl created. In short, I drowned in it. But in falling so hard for it, I neglected to focus on the sadness and the darkness that had been interlaced into the story. The movie achieves something amazing in the way that it tells a story of such longing and tragedy, but does it in a way that barely even lets you linger in it. Perhaps it’s no small accident that I’ve developed a taste for bitter chocolate since seeing this film.
So when we consider Ralph Fiennes’ killer timing, or Adrien Brody’s goofy villainy, or – as mentioned – the incredibly lush visuals, we eventually realize that they are spoons full of sugar to help our medicine go down. They are there to distract from the fact that beacons like The Grand Budapest once existed, and were in fact overrun by historical humanity’s violence and selfishness. They are there to distract from the fact that boys and girls like Zero once lived, and were constantly pulled out of lines and off trains to have their human rights trampled. They are there to distract from the fact that sweet romances like that of Zero’s and Agatha’s did indeed occur, but they were forcibly yanked apart, never to be resumed.
In short, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is a look at what happens to the sweetest and most beautiful of things when the world can’t leave well enough alone. In that way it is timeless, without borders, and truly something to be revisited and re-examined again and again. After all, purely on the surface, this is a film that contains such exquisite detail. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised just how far below the surface that amount of detail goes.
Click below for my original review of THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, and feel free to leave comments with your thoughts on this film and its place in the decade so far.