Life at the Grand Budapest Hotel is cocooned in a bubblegum sweetness. Where there is color, there is consistency, rendered in shades of watermelon and peach, saltwater taffy and pinched cheeks. The audience is not viewing a world that happens to be pink; rather, pink is the world, with characters and buildings carved from its subsistence, swallowing the aforementioned audience in its entirety. This is a world in which blending in causes figures to stand out. The ordinary become extra-, and polychromatism is a concept rejected.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is one in a host of dreamlike films by Wes Anderson. They are collectively revered for their blending of symmetry, color, and shape to create all-encompassing everydays that feel fantastical. They are oftentimes set in a nonspecific past, and the otherworldly quality that pervades each facet of Anderson’s filmmaking induces a nostalgia that is not only impossible to ignore, but one that is a central figure and hallmark of his work.
The costuming employed in his films is almost as recognizable as the color palettes. Characters often dress in a singular color, and the color, whatever that may be, will match the background, or complement it closely. In Hotel Chevalier, Natalie Portman lounges in a shocking yellow robe, candied-banana towel wrapped around her head, framed by a yellow bed that is, in turn, encompassed by lemon walls. It is not overwhelming, however counterintuitive that may seem; the various shades layer on top of one another in a way that is curious and engrossing. The more one looks, the more there is to see.
When Suzy peers through her binoculars in Moonrise Kingdom, she appears one with the lighthouse on which she stands, their orange-and-white existence shocking against the endless blue of the seaside sky. This scene is not monochromatic, but the pieces that do blend together make a bold statement: the ground on which Suzy stands belongs to her, and although the outside world might be bearing down, the one that she created with her other half, Sam, is theirs and theirs alone. Wherever they go, they will be, and exist as they should and were always meant to. It is an affirmation of fate and correctness of being. Suzy finds cohesiveness in the disjointed, and in this coordination, her path is clear.
The rigidness of the style of dress often chosen for these films complements the eccentricities of each world very well; in their precise normalcy, they are uncanny, much like the features of dolls or humanoid animatronics. They are ordinary to the point of exception, drawing the viewer further into any given scene by way of highly stylized costuming. It is engrossing work, trying to understand the hyper-realities and slight unnaturalness that permeates Anderson’s films.
His characters are so finely woven into their surroundings they become the foundations of their worlds, not pieces moving through them. To watch Fantastic Mr. Fox or The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is to be implanted in their orange and blue atmospheres. It is not so much that the viewer’s world fades away when watching, but that the film’s devours everything in proximity.