Wes Anderson’s delightful and ambitious caper/murder mystery, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” has screened at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival. About a legendary concierge at a famous hotel as an era of fascism creeps into an alpine Eastern European country, the comedy might be Anderson’s biggest film in scope and scale to date. It’s a nostalgic look at a golden age of culture that no longer exists, and it’s also a throwback/homage to the way Hollywood films perceived Europe in the 1930s and during WWII. And yes, it has the Lubitsch touch.
During today's press conference, Anderson was asked what the movie’s key influences were. First and foremost he said were the writings of European novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer Stefan Zweig. One of the most famous writers in the world during the 1920s and ‘30s, Zweig’s work had fallen out of print in the U.S. for several years, but Anderson said when he finally read one of his novels a few years ago, he fell completely in love with them instantly.
“People in Europe are surprised that we don’t know this writer, they all know him in France, Germany, he’s enormously popular. He’s enormously popular ,” he explained. “I read 'Beware Of Pity’ a number of years ago and I loved it immediately from the first page. And I started reading all his fiction and his wonderful memoir, ‘The World Of Yesterday’.” [ed. which would have been a perfectly apt subtitle for the film’s title].
“Our story is not really related to his work, it’s not based on any of his stories, there are devices and an atmosphere and my intention was to do our own version of a Zweig story. So that’s the connection,” he added. Later on Anderson quipped that the influence was ”more or less plagiarism,” adding, “It's his introduction to 'Beware of Pity' that we have adapted into our film.”
Asked about the key cinematic influences of the film, the cineaste was happy to rattle off a bunch of titles. And the cast and crew noted that while many of them weren’t in all the same scenes together, often not, they all spent time together in pre-production (and during production) watching movies. “We had a number of films that we watched together. We had a little library of movies where we filmed,” Anderson said.
Anderson named a few films by Ernst Lubitsch as a chief cinematic influence on 'Budapest,' mentioning as he has in previous interviews, 1940’s “The Shop Around the Corner,” 1942's “To Be or Not to Be," as well as William Wyler's 1935 romantic comedy "The Good Fairy" written by Preston Sturges. The filmmaker also mentioned as influences Rouben Mamoulian's 1932 musical comedy "Love Me Tonight," Frank Borzage's 1940s MGM drama "The Mortal Storm" starring Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart and Frank Morgan, and Ingmar Bergman’s 1963 “The Silence,” which like “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is centered in a fictional Europe. “It’s in its own invented country in Europe with trains and hotel scenes,” Anderson noted.
Anderson’s always looking in unexpected places for his films and that certainly shows in the very unique and distinctive “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Aside from fantasy and sci-fi films, one can argue no one makes worlds like Wes Anderson, and our review of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” will be online later today. The film opens March 7th and below, you'll find trailers for the six films Anderson name checked for a little cinematic homework if you’re so inspired.