Watch: How Wes Anderson's Pretensions Benefit His Art
Wes Anderson: pretentious or genius?
Usually, there’s not much of a middle ground when it comes to people's feelings about Wes Anderson. Lessons From the Screenplay states, “Some people consider Wes Anderson a genius that converts conventional film language into his own diabetic, while others claim it is artfulness mistaken for art; film devoid of meaning.”
So, you probably either think Anderson is utterly pretentious or one of the best filmmakers alive.
In the video essay below, Storytellers makes the case for how Anderson’s lavish style is not superfluous, but rather necessary for the success of his films.
Anderson’s cinematic style varies with each one of his films. Whether they read like picture books or paintings, it's the cohesion of his narrative, characters, and dialogue that truly make the movies work. This verisimilitude is what allows the viewer to accept the reality of his meticulously crafted worlds.
In The Grand Budapest Hotel, this fact is truly made evident. Anderson’s focus on framing and aspect ratio match his narrative style of telling a story framed by another story framed by another and yet another. In terms of aspect ratio, Anderson even goes so far as to employ the aspect ratios that were the convention for the time periods in which he set his multi-faceted story.
Matching his dialogue to his style is another way he makes it all work as a whole. For example, Monsieur Gustav speaks in a flowery, aristocratic manner, which mirrors the decadence not only of his surroundings but also the film itself.
The way Anderson sets up his frames is anything but common. His tableaus, tracking shots, and blocking are specifically designed to enhance the absurdity of his trademark tragic/comic narratives. In fact, it’s the moments he abandons his unconventional vision that end up having the greatest effect on the audience.
As David Bordval says in the video essay, “At an emotional peak, Anderson sharply violates the film’s intrinsic norm by bringing in a common technique.” In Grand Budapest, however, he does away with this rule in favor of relying on the rules in which he’s created through the film’s style to motivate the audience’s emotional response.