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In Wes Anderson’s 2014 film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, we begin in the present where a young woman reads a book about an author’s trip to The Grand Budapest Hotel. We then shift to the author who begins his story of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Here we meet Zero Moustafa, the owner of the hotel, who is telling the author his own story of the hotel. We are finally thrust through time back to the 1930s where most of the remaining story continues.
Throughout the film, Anderson highlights the theme of the importance of preserving a memory through his use of the courtesan au chocolat and the different colorings of each time period.
One of the central props in the film is the pastry, the courtesan au chocolat. Throughout the film, the pastry carries an almost mystical quality to it. In several instances the pastry saves the lives of the characters or is used as a way of bribery into almost anywhere.
This serves to reflect the mystical quality of the hotel from Zero’s point of view. He sees his time at the hotel as completely life-changing and so wants to preserve what he sees as an otherworldly experience. The pastry also provides a reflection to how characters like Gustave and Zero want to almost immortalize the hotel and the memories within it. For example, towards the end of the film, Zero and the author are served the courtesan au chocolat. The pastry looks exactly as it did in Zero’s memory representing how he would like to keep his memories and image of the hotel constant as well acting as a reminder of fond memories.
As the film moves between time periods the hue in each time changes. Specifically, in Zero’s story, the rosy hue serve to reflect Zero’s interpretation of events. The intensity of the colors represent how this time carries many good memories and are the ones he’s trying hardest to keep from fading. On the other hand, the harsh lighting symbolizes how these memories are also the hardest to remember as he lost both Gustave and Agatha. When we come back to the 50’s the color is less vivid, indicating that Zero’s memories of the hotel are beginning to fade over time just as the hotel itself is fading.
As we grow older, the need to reminisce becomes greater. As our memories begin to fade and we long to preserve those that are most precious. The Grand Budapest Hotel, reflects this sentiment through the use of a mystical pastry and the changing hues and colors associated with Zero’s memory. In the end, Zero’s longing for better times creates an opportunity for it to be forever immortalized within a book.
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