Commentary
5:00 am
Thu April 10, 2014

'Budapest' A Masterpiece of Symmetry

Credit rottentomatoes.com

The Grand Budapest Hotel is the first movie I've called a masterpiece while admitting I didn't even keep track of whether the story made sense.

The reason is that I was fascinated by the visual motif that contributed so much to the storybook effect that it shared with writer-director Wes Anderson's previous Moonrise Kingdom, which used the same technique to a lesser degree, but to much the same effect.

The technique is simple enough technically, consisting of making virtually every shot symmetrical, with the right side of the screen balancing the left, almost a mirror effect.

But the balancing is done in a variety of ways, with grouping of characters, arrangement of setting and details of setting, like windows and chairs and sides of tables, and files of troops and lord knows what all, including red costumes on one side and blue ones on the other, frequently with a line straight down the center of the frame, made by roads or railroad tracks or ski tracks, or separate features, one located above the other, like a candle topped by a face topped by a light. And frequently, things are boxed in by doors or windows or other framing devices.

The Grand Budapest Hotel starts with somebody reading a book, and the visuals suggest illustrations in a book, supposedly an old-style adventure like the Indiana Jones series if they had been books instead of movies.

This effect validates preposterous events like the impossibly complicated prison escape, as well as the grammatically polished dialogue that makes the very occasional vulgarisms actually effective. And I don't even have time for all the other good things about The Grand Budapest Hotel.