The Grand Budapest Hotel opens Berlin film fest

Bright sunshine and one degree Centigrade weather welcome us when we land in Berlin from freezing, snow covered Tehran, all set for an 11-day sojourn with films, filmmakers and may be, biting February cold in this historic city.

The star studded opening function, attended by the who’s who of German and European cinema, was followed by the screening of the Wes Anderson-directed film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, starring Ralph Fiennes, Matthieu Almaric, Adrian Brody, Jude Law and Tilda Swinton.

Anderson, a self-proclaimed Satyajit Ray acolyte, after opened Cannes last year with his Moonrise Kingdom, which was a critical and box office success. Will the eccentric characters of the enigmatic tragicomedy portrayed by some of the best actors of the world cinema bring Anderson another critical and box office success? Will Berlin bless him with another critical and financial success as the 2002 screening of The Royal Tenenbaums?

Typical of all Anderson films, The Grand Budapest Hotel is also a stylised visual poem recounted in its entirety in flashback — all through the eyes of Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy turned owner of the hotel. Of course, the main dramatis personae should be connected together through several lines of poems which they keep reciting at appropriate intervals. Questioned about the title card in the film that it is based on Stefan Zweig, Anderson said that while the story is not from Stefan, he adopted the devices and atmosphere from his writings. He of course borrowed the opening lines of the film, “stories come up to you” from Stefan.

All the legendary characters of the movie move like artists on stage in the hotel foyer and the great outdoors, sometimes travelling in train, sometimes crossing the vast snow covered barley fields and sometimes skiing down slopes pushing criminals to their deaths. It is Anderson’s delightful fairy tale, his magical stage opening to his dream world.

Simply, it is the story of the impeccable concierge Gustave who knows the needs of all his guests and charms especially rich, old women. One of his old sweet hearts willed the hotel to him just before her death. But he has to cross several adventures, including spending time with criminals in prison and a daring prison break to claim his right. He adopts his apprentice lobby boy Zero Moustafa. When after all the adventure he inherits the Grand Budapest Hotel, he bequeaths it to his apprentice who, like his master decides to live in servant quarters in spite of being the owner of the hotel.

The well-layered film holds a mirror to the changing political climate of the times in a very subtle manner. He decided on Academy ratio format to give a period effect to the film, Anderson said.

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