Wes Anderson creates a world with his movies and the goal is for that world to come to life. His current film, The Grand Budapest Hotel certainly does that. Featuring a palette of pinks, violets and reds, the film tells the story of the charming, dedicated hotel concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) as he fights to claim the inheritance left to him by one of his beloved clients (Tilda Swinton) from her villainous sons (Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe).
The film takes place in a fictional part of Central Europe, in a country known as Zubrowka. The small town of Görlitz, in what used to be East germany right on the border of Poland, is the backdrop for the hotel. The town’s character, all of the architecture and design elements, lend themselves perfectly to the fictious town of Neblesbad, where the movie is set. It’s this fictional setting that opened up a ton up opportunities for the films designers to create magic. They built an entire portfolio of period documents and signage, that as paper enthusiasts we adored. From Zubrowkan passports, to the country’s flag and the offical currency – klubecks, this film is packed with ephemera. The set designers invented bus and train lines, newpapers (in which Anderson himself wrote all of the articles) – all things the viewer only catches a glimpse of. Created from Anderson’s vision, props like the Mendl’s confectionery box and the pastries are a visual feast, each detail is impeccable.
The film spans two time periods back to back: 1968 and 1932. The audience first meets the hotel in the late sixties. Building the thirties version first, the crew shot the movie backwards and then peeled away the sixties layer to expose the earlier period hotel. This meant the design team had to change the color scheme from the thirties bright pink and red to burnt orange and green for 1968. Lending texture and character to the composition, the film showcases a number of large-scale miniatures constructed by a Berlin-based team, led by Simon Weisse – the main shot of the hotel is one of them. The filming for the hotel was actually shot inside an abandoned department store known as Görlitz Warenhaus. Mendl’s confectionery shop was filmed in a famous creamery in Dresden, founded by a farmer in 1892 and known as Pfunds Molkerie.
Designers will enjoy the prominent position typography plays throughout the film, most of it being hand-lettered. In an interview with Creative Review, the film’s graphic designer, Annie Atkins explains “the beautiful thing about period film making is that you’re creating graphic design for a time before graphic designers existed, per sé. It was really the craftsmen who were the designers: the blacksmith designed the lettering in the cast iron gates; the glazier sculpted the lettering in the stained glass; the sign-painter drew the lettering for the shopfronts; the printer chose the type blocks for the stationery.” The charm of the movie is not only the characters but the design elements themselves. The Grand Budapest Hotel represents the grandeur and refinement of a by-gone era. One that we would love to visit. In the meantime, check out our board featuring all of these wonderful props from the movie.