The Grand Budapest Hotel

Adrien Brody

"Adrien Brody plays Madame D.’s son, Dmitri Desgoffe und Taxis; Willem Dafoe, who isn’t pictured, plays his henchman, Jopling."

Photographer: Martin Scali

Wes Anderson’s films seem to exist in a bygone time and place that is at once familiar and elusive, built (as memories often are) on things both real and imagined. Though his latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is based on the books of Stefan Zweig, an Austrian Jew who was among the most admired writers in Europe before he was exiled by the Nazis, the adventure tale is uniquely Andersonian. It begins in an opulent old hotel in the Alps but is located in a country that is “some combination of Czechoslovakia and Poland and maybe Hungary, too,” Anderson says. The year is 1932, and the coming war that throws the lives of the hotel’s esteemed head concierge, M. Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), and his lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), into spirited disarray “is meant to be something like the two world wars mashed together.” Against this stormy forecast, the plot turns on the death of Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), a countess and hotel regular who leaves an invaluable treasure to Gustave instead of her own villainous offspring. By telling the story through flashbacks—a game of cinematic telephone, really—Anderson further blurs the lines between history, source material, and film. “I wanted to make a movie that wasn’t based on a specific Zweig story but rather one that was ‘of his world,’ ” he explains. What he has made is informed by Ernst Lubitsch, Fritz Lang, and Billy Wilder—European filmmakers who created their own visions of Mitteleuropa in Los Angeles. Even the lavish decor of the Grand Budapest is not of one period but took cues from “all sorts of hotels from the 19th and 20th centuries,” Anderson says. “You might say it’s a composite.”