The Grand Budapest Hotel is another Wes Anderson’s movie that has captivated the audience by the symmetrical composition of many of the shots throughout the film. The Grand Budapest Hotel stands out for the way the movie presents and differentiate the shifts of time period. In this visual analysis essay, I will argue how the viewers can analyze the differences between the main time periods which the story takes place through the mise-en-scene and cinematography presented throughout the movie.
I will be analyzing the scene when the writer encountered with Mr. Moustafa in the dinner table, where Mr. Moustafa commences the narration of the main story of Mr. Gustave and Agatha. This scene takes place in the 1968’s time frame. The two characters, were framed in a medium-distance two shot and facing each other in profile. However, when Mr. Moustafa was beginning to tell the story about the Grand Budapest, the camera moves into Mr. Moustafa, giving him a head shot. Besides that, Anderson uses deep-space composition, that according to Bordwell, “manipulates depth cues to make a space appear deeper”. I think this showed the viewer about the deep emotional connection he had with Mr. Gustave and Agatha.
The Grand Budapest hotel stands out for its vibrant color presented throughout the movie. The color cast changes to represent different timeframes and situations in the movies. The 1968’s time period were presented with the image that looks warmer and tinted towards yellows and oranges. This give a sense of warmth of the hotel to the viewer as Mr. Moustafa was recollecting his favorite events of the hotel.
Besides that, The Grand Budapest Hotel also changes the shape of the frame or aspect ratio to match the time periods. This scene was shoot in anamorphic widescreen, with 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This cinema cue for CinemaScope presentation format is popular in the 60s until the late 70s. With this ratio, it is intended to tell the viewers that the conversation between Mr. Moustafa and the writer takes place in the 1960s.
Throughout the movie, Anderson uses lighting cues to present Mr. Moustafa’s emotional relationship with different time periods of the main points of the story. The scene’s lighting changes noticeably to reflect how Mr. Moustafa felt about the events and the viewers can feel the emotional shifts.
After the cut to 1968, the set is brightly illuminated by overhead lighting. The scene uses high-key lighting, in which according to Bordwell, “refers to an overall lighting design that uses fill light and backlight to create relatively low contrast between brighter and darker areas”. This is intended to show that Mr. Moustava enjoyed the time he had with Mr. Goustave and give the viewers a sense of cheerful and happiness. However, this shifted when he was about to talk about Agatha. To show Mr. Moustava’s emotional distress, the mise-en-scene switches to low-key lighting. The key light is hard and directed from the left side, creating dark shadows around Mr. Moustava to reflect the pain he had when he thought of Agatha.
In sum, The Grand Budapest Hotel had use the mise-en-scene and cinematography greatly to tell the viewers about the different time table that the movie presents.