By Edward Davis | The Playlist January 29, 2014 at 1:23PM
For months, many pundits including us assumed Wes Anderson’s upcoming movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel” — which is set in the early 1930s on the brink of a World War — would naturally take place in the country of Hungary (Budapest being the country’s capital of course). But being that things are always slight off center in the universes Anderson creates, they are always a little different from what you’d expect.
From the invented, 1970s-influenced New York of “The Royal Tenebaums” to the imagined marine species in “The Life Aquatic,” Anderson typically creates something new within an existing milieu. Revealed yesterday, through a new viral site Akademie Zubrowka, are details of this new universe for "The Grand Budapest Hotel." Hints were revealed in the original trailer of course — the “ZZ” symbols on the military forces in the film (as represented by Edward Norton’s characters) were like Nazi symbology, but not quite, and the invented world where “The Grand Budapest Hotel” takes place is the country known as The Republic of Zubrowka.
The viral site that encourages you to learn more, writes: “The Republic of Zubrowka possesses a rich heritage known only to the few who have thought to seek it out… until now. For the first time ever, you can explore the detailed political, cultural and artistic world of 20th century Zubrowka at the Akademie's Historical Archive. Learn about the military coup of 1935, the involvement of The Grand Budapest Hotel and the roving cast of characters that make up its intricate past. Classes are now in session .”
Warning, there appears to be minor spoilers throughout, but nothing major given the fact that we already know “The Grand Budapest Hotel” takes place in the 1930s and two other time periods, one being the 1960s and another an undefined, but more modern era. In those three eras, two players who span most of that period are the younger and older version of Zero Moustafa (younger played by Tony Revolori and older by F. Murray Abraham) and “the writer/author” (younger version played by Jude Law, the older version by Tom Wilkinson). We mapped out much of this months ago in our trailer deconstruction and it’s confirmed by Anderson himself and various trailers so don’t worry that these are major spoilers (the last trailer spell it all out too once you know what to look for).
In case you’ve forgotten, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” recounts the adventures of M. Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa (Revolori), the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune -- all against the back-drop of a suddenly and dramatically changing continent.
The viral site has lots of goodies to explore: perhaps one of the more interesting ones is a look at all of the hotel concierges in the film. There’s Monsieur Robin from the Hotel Cote Du Cap (played by Fisher Stevens), M. Martin from the Ritz Imperial (Bob Balaban, the narrator from "Moonrise Kingdom"), M. Dino from the Palazzo Principessa (Waris Ahluwalia from "The Life Aquatic" and "The Darjeeling Limited") and M. George from the Chateau Luxe (Anderson’s friend Wallace Wolodarsky who he named a character after in “Life Aquatic”). The clerk you already know is. M. Ivan from the Excelsior Palace (played by Bill Murray). If you dig deep enough into the viral site, you’ll find a quick video clip centering on each hotel man which leads up to believe you might get a little Anderson-y montage in the film (and our guess is they all come to the aide of M. Gustave H). Curiously enough the rival hotel concierge played by Owen Wilson is absent from the site (though the reasons for that will be revealed in the film).
Sorry no embeds for any of the video on the site, but there’s got to be at least 15 clips in total that have lots of little snippet of new footage you haven’t seen (featuring scenes with characters played by Norton, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton and more). They do suggest that the older M. Moustafa will be narrating the movie as he looks back on his life (telling his tale to the young writer, no doubt).
Digging deeper within, you find lots of little tidbits like the death of a character we won’t mention; and major whirlwind fortune for another player. There’s lots of little character details too: Jeff Goldblums’ Kovacs being a deputy who found the mayor of Lutz in a scandal, presumably one of the major cities of Zubrowka, and Willem Dafoe’s Jopling is a “Private Inquiry Agent” which basically means hired thug for Brody’s character. The history of the country and how the Police Militia and impending military occupation of the country is in keeping with the history of a lot of European cities during and after WWII, and there's much more to uncover.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” will be Wes Anderson’s first film shot in three different aspect ratios, the first of his movies to feature no pop music and it will make its world debut at the Berlin Film Festival next week (yes, we’ll be there, thanks for asking). The movie opens up in the U.S. on March 7th.