Wes Anderson’s latest symbolic fantasy is a caper-film, a chase-movie, a suspense-comedy, a visual feast, an animation festival, story within a story, and a nostalgic yearning for a past that never was.
Ralph Fiennes, appearing in every scene, holds up the entire film with the strength of his character punctuated by comic interludes. He is the concierge and animus of a great hotel and is swept fearlessly into fatal conflict with the powerful von Taxis family.
Thoroughly fine acting by the principles, famous cameos and bit players, impeccable timing, incessant motion, improbable escapes and a medley of symbols propel the audience through the fantastic landscape of a fictitious country being mauled by the stark realities of cruel history.
Dedicated to author Stefan Zweig, the film attacks the insidious monotonization of the world.
Some fault Anderson’s lack of historical and real bases for his work but this is hardly fair. A work of art should be criticized in terms of what it is, not what it isn’t. Artists do not necessarily serve as pack animals for philosophy, science, history, commerce or even theories of art. Or even their own reputation.
It’s certainly true that the film colorfully portrays life as black and white; pure good, mostly unsentimentally, battles pure evil. The epic lyric poem is always interrupted. I watched it three times in one day to catch the asides, the jokes, and the symbols that form the detailed architecture of this fine film.
Anderson’s earlier films include Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and the Royal Tenenbaums.