Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

grandbudapesthotelI really don’t know what to make of this film! Not a good way to start a review, perhaps…

This is a whimsical film drawing on a nostalgia about a place and time I never knew. Yet it still managed to convey it to me. A curiously memorable film about the passing of an era.

It follows the life of Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes). He is a concierge at a big European Hotel – the Grand Budapest of the title. It is his character that dominates the film but his story is told by Zero Moustafaw, the former lobby boy.

Gustave H is an odd one. He is flirtatious (“I sleep with all my friends”), camp, romantic and brave. Ralph Fiennes displays a fine and surprising potential as a comic actor.

The plot involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the struggle for an enormous family inheritance. There are a whole host of big name stars and you can have much fun spotting them as they appear (sometimes in unlikely guises!).

The film is set against a backdrop of a Europe changing – and perhaps not for the better. The Hotel is a kind of world in itself or island but around it we see the rise of Fascism. Gustave H. has only to go on a train to see that more brutal reality. The old Europe and its values are under threat. Gustave H. still clings to those values or at least professes to: “You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed that’s what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant… oh, fuck it. “

He believes his work at the hotel is important, that he is making the world better through it. He has an odd professionalism combined with cynicism sometimes. At the end of the film it is said of him that “He retained the illusion with remarkable grace.” That about sums it up…  I think!

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

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