Film: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a 2014 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Wes Anderson and distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures. The film was inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig.

The movie opens in the present day in the "former republic" of Zubrowka, a Mitteleuropean nation that was "once the seat of an empire" but is now recovering from war, poverty and rule by first fascists and then communists. A young woman visits a cemetery to pay her respects to the celebrated writer known only as "The Author." Sitting down by the memorial she starts to read his memoir, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The story cuts to 1985 where The Author (Tom Wilkinson) relates the story of the Grand Budapest Hotel. In 1968 the Author (played as a younger man by Jude Law) took a trip to the alpine Grand Budapest Hotel, by then very much fallen on hard times. He meets the owner, Mr. Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who tells him the story of how the hotel fell into his possession and why he maintains it despite its clear decline.

Finally, *deep breath*, Mr. Moustafa flashes back to the glory days of 1932 when he was a young immigrant lobby boy (played by Tony Revolori) being trained by legendary concierge M. Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes). The hotel is glorious, the clientele is rich, and the concierge keeps everything twirling. But danger strikes in the midst of this paradise, when M. Gustave is accused... of murder! What follows is a madcap caper of art, war, secrecy, and, of course, true love.

The film also stars Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan, Bill Murray and Willem Dafoe among many, many others. It has been nominated for 9 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. It won four awards, for Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Score, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. It also won BAFTAs for those four categories, as well as Best Original Screenplay.

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

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  • Affably Evil: The inmates Gustave becomes friends with. After they escape, Ludwig wishes him and Zero the best right before they kill an innocent man and hijack his car to escape.
  • The Alcatraz: Check-Point 19 where Gustave is held awaiting trial.
  • Ambiguously Bi: M. Gustave claims to "go to bed with all his friends", says that being told he's straight by one of his prison friends is a compliment he's never been given before, and is exceedingly foppish in sensibilities.
    Gustave: Wait, I thought I was a "fucking faggot".
    Dmitri: (beat) ...You ARE one, you're just bisexual.
  • Amoral Attorney: Inverted. Not only is Deputy Kovacs honest, he actually refuses to act corruptly because he's an attorney. Sadly, Jopling murders him when the Desgoffe-und-Taxis discover he can't be bought.
  • Anachronism Stew: In a few ways, ranging from props (e.g. Henckels using an electric megaphone) to people using terms that would not be seen for decades (e.g. "candy-ass").
  • Animal Motif: Henckels and the rest of the police force have a wolf motif shown with the wolf on their hats and Henckels' wolf fur coat. They only show up in packs.
  • Ascended Fanboy: After being thoroughly unimpressed with Zero's resume, Gustave asks him why he wants to be a lobby boy. Without a hint of sarcasm, Zero responds "Who wouldn't at the Grand Budapest, sir? It's an institution." He's hired on the spot.
  • Aspect Ratio: The film changes between three different ratios for the time periods: 1.85:1 for scenes set in 1985 to the present day; 2.35:1 for the 1960s; and 1.375:1 for the 1930s. This final ratio is known as the Academy ratio, as it was set as the standard ratio for shooting film by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1932, the year the 30s section of the film begins in.
  • Badass Mustache: Gustave manages the seemingly impossible feat of a mustache that is both Badass and elegant. In imitation a young Zero takes to penciling on a fake mustache. By the end he has grown a real one.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Zero is a nice young man ...which doesn't stop him from throwing Jopling over a cliff to save Gustave, and seemingly having no qualms whatsoever afterwards. Also, stealing the painting was his idea in the first place.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Ever heard of Zubrowka? It's a Polish grass vodka brand.
    • The same applies for the German names: Nebelsbad literally means "fog bath". Lutz (possibly a play on the real Polish town Łódź) is actually a petname for "Ludwig" (Louis).
  • Bittersweet Ending: Gustave is vindicated of any involvement in Madame D's murder and inherits a large sum of her fortune, leaving Dimitri with nothing (though he escapes). However, the hotel falls on hard times, Gustave is shot by enemy soldiers after defending Zero yet again, and Zero grows old and lonely after Agatha and his infant son succumb to a fatal disease. The story of the Grand Budapest does live on long after the building is demolished however, immortalised by the Author.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: In the end, Zero says that Gustave's world had disappeared before he was even born, but he maintained the illusion pretty well.
  • The Cameo: One of the fascist gunmen seen poking their head out during the final shootout in the hotel is George Clooney.
  • Camp Straight: Gustave is exceedingly camp, calls everyone (including men) 'darling' and covers himself with an extremely potent perfume. He is also a shameless womaniser with a taste for (much) older women.
  • Car Cushion: When Zero and Agatha fall off the balcony of the hotel, they crash through the canvas roof of Mendl's delivery van, landing in a pile of pastry boxes.
  • Catch Phrase: Gustave refers to everyone as "darling" when he's being friendly.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The movie cycles between comedy and drama at points, most notably in the end. After figuring out and foiling the plot, Gustave ends up rich and happy and Zero is successful and married; this quickly turns awful when Gustave is executed by fascist militants, Agatha and her child later die from an easily-curable disease, and Zero inherits the hotel only for it to turn obsolete.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Agatha's facial birthmark. At a glance at the head in that basket, its absence reveals she wasn't murdered.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The scar-faced inmate who likes the mush Gustave makes. He lets him and his mates escape when his cell mate tries to call the guards on them.
  • Commie Land: The grim, faded Zubrowka seen in the 1960s is heavily implied to be part of the Warsaw Pact. Mr. Moustafa notes that the once sumptuous steam baths in the Grand Budapest could not have been maintained because they were "too decadent for current tastes." The Author later notes that Mr. Moustafa handed over his great fortune to the local commissar to stop the hotel falling into government hands as "communal property"... and it still failed to stop it being demolished, though probably only after his death.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Mocked by Wes Anderson himself. An article reviewing his films noticed that he has a habit of killing dogs. In this film, however, he kills a cat. It was the attorney's cat, and it was thrown out the window.
  • Credits Gag: Along with the title of the replacement painting, near the end of the credits, a guy in the bottom-right corner is doing That Russian Squat Dance.
  • Dark Is Evil: Dmitri and Jopling wear particularly dark clothing.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Dmitri's moustache, dress sense and personality all evoke this.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Zig-Zagged, at first the Author seems to be the main character in the Book Ends of the film, but Gustave H. acts as the lead main character for the majority of the film and was the lead in older Zero's tale from 1932 (also the actor who plays Gustave receives top billing), however, it is Zero (both old and young) who is the real main protagonist, especially after revealing Gustave was killed by the firing squad in defense of Zero just after Gustave managed to clear his name of murder and inherited a fortune in the monochrome epilogue to Zero's tale and the inherited fortune and the titular hotel ownership goes to Zero.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: After Gustave is sent to prison, he mentions that he got into a fight with some of the inmates. After he won, they immediately became loyal friends.
  • Disney Villain Death: Happens to Jopling.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: The Author.
  • The Dragon: Jopling is this to Dimitri.
  • Dull Surprise: Kovacs has a remarkably subdued reaction to seeing his cat thrown out the window.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The replacement painting is named in the credits as "Two Lesbians Masturbating".
  • Excessive Evil Eyeshadow: Rare Male Example with Jopling.
  • Exposed to the Elements:
    • Gustave and Zero spend quite a lot of time running around in the snow covered roof tops/country-side/mountains. While they'll fully dressed, they're notably lacking in coats, gloves or really anything to keep the warmth in - Zero in particular has short sleeves and no shoes in one scene! - but the cold never really seems to bother them too much. This really comes into play when Zero and Gustave chase after Jopling in a very high speed chase down snowy mountains.
    • After exiting the art museum and walking through the snow-covered street, Jopling doesn't bother to put his shoes back on.
  • Failed a Spot Check: It really takes far too long for Dmitri to realise that Boy With Apple is missing...which is odd, considering you'd think he'd want to get it under lock and key as soon as possible. His sisters even ask him why he's only just noticed its absence.
  • Fake Kill Scare: When the film makes us momentarily think that Jopling has murdered Agatha, but it's actually the less significant character of Serge's sister.
  • Fingore: Kovacs's fingers are severed when Jopling slams a door on them.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Gustave is the main character, but the story is told by Zero.
  • Food Porn: Everyone in the story is obsessed with Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolats. Given how pretty they are, can we blame them?
  • Framing Story: The great bulk of the story takes place in 1932, is related by the much older Zero Moustafa to the Author in 1968, who writes his memoir in 1985 which is read by a young woman in the present.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: A funny one revealing the fate of Dmitri with a newspaper article shown for only a couple of beats. Really scrupulous viewers will notice that the second paragraph repeats the contents of the first verbatim.
  • Gray and Black Morality: Gustave and Zero make off with a painting that Madame D bequeathed to Gustave in her will, although it does not technically belong to Gustave until legal confirmation of the will can be carried out. That said, Dmitri is an evil little shit.
  • Great Escape
  • Hero of Another Story: The Student's tribute to the Author's gravestone (which is covered in other similar tributes - namely, keys) and the Author's narration makes it clear the Grand Budapest Hotel was just one of many, many stories the Author covered.
  • His Name Is...: Serge is strangled to death right as Gustave is losing his shit demanding to know what the hell is going on.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The shootout scene screams this, with not a single person firing a gun hitting anything.
  • Instant Dogend: M. Jean.
  • Jail Bake: When Gustave is recruited into helping break out his cellmates (and himself), Zero gets Agatha to bake tools into her pastries and sends to Gustave. The dainty pastries are such works of art that the prison warden can't bring himself to destroy them to check for contraband (although it's obvious from their shape that they contain something). However, because they're so small, Agatha can only fit miniaturized digging tools inside of them.
  • Kick the Dog: When Jopling kills Kovacs's cat in front of him, a couple of hours before murdering Kovacs himself.
  • Killed Off Screen: Madame D, Kovacs, Serge's sister, Agatha and Gustave.
  • Last Name Basis: Inverted; Both Gustave and Serge are only known by their first names and even in the most official context only the first letters of their surnames are given, H and X respectively and X may be only be indicative of a lack of known last name. The Society of Crossed Keys also all go by "Monsieur [first name]".
  • Likes Older Women: M. Gustave: specifically, blonde, shallow, needy, vain, and adventurous, all very much like him.
  • Lost In Transmission: Surprisingly inverted when Gustave calls the Society of Crossed Keys for emergency assistance. Despite being relayed via telephone through no less than five concierges, with each conversation lasting mere seconds, Gustave's message is conveyed perfectly to its final recipient.
  • MacGuffin: The painting Boy with Apple. It's first and last seen in the Grand Budapest in the 60's, unnoticed and hanging crooked.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Among the requirements for being Monsieur Gustave's personal guest was being blonde.
    Young Author: Why blonde?
    Mr. Moustafa: Because they all were.
  • Meaningful Background Event: The gradual descent of Zubrowka into fascism and final annexation by an aggressive neighbor, that becomes increasingly obvious as the film progresses and finally causes Gustave's implied death-by-overconfidence/over-developed sense of decency.
  • Meaningful Name: Zero, who has "zero" experience and a lowly social station. As an undocumented immigrant, he's also a non-person in the eyes of the government.
  • Menacing Stroll: Dmitri attempts this while following Agatha, but when he rounds a corner he realizes that she started running as soon as she was out of sight, forcing him to start frantically sprinting after her.
  • Milkman Conspiracy: A late part of the movie involves the Society of Crossed Keys, a clandestine international network of hotel concierges, which provides help to Gustave (who is a member himself) to discover where Serge, Madame D's murder witness, is hiding.
    • Likely based on the real life Society of the Golden Keys, a network of concierges that exists within Great Britain and the Commonwealth. Even the emblem and lapel pins are nearly identical, two crossed gold keys.
  • Mishmash Museum: The Kunstmuseum has a very eclectic collection consisting of Old Master paintings interspersed with Egyptian sarcophagi, Greek statues, and medieval plate armour.
  • My Hero Zero: Zero Moustafa, the First-Person Peripheral Narrator.
  • Mysterious Past:
    • Gustave, who, as it turns out, shares Zero's experience in having... well, zero, in addition to having been a lobby boy himself.
    • Zero, as well, up until Gustave snaps at him for not bringing the Panache perfume after his escape - it's revealed all his family were executed in a war, and those who survived were forced to flee.

  • Nazi Nobleman: Dmitri is associated with Zubrowka's "Zig-Zag" fascist movement.
  • Nested Story: The plot goes about three levels deep: the film opens with a present-day student reading the memoirs of a late author; said memoirs cover The Author's stay at the Grand Budapest; during the said stay, he meets hotel owner Zero Moustafa, and hears his story of how he moved from lobby boy to the proprietor.
  • No Name Given: The character played by Tom Wilkinson and (as a younger man) by Jude Law is never given a name. He's listed as "Author" both on the credits and his own monument, and the credits and subtitles call his younger self "Young Writer." The young woman in the beginning is also only known as "Student" in the credits.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Everyone. Wes Anderson clearly doesn't care what accent the characters have, and all the actors keep their native dialect regardless of whom they are playing. American actors sound American, Brits sound British, and so on. Even people within the same family have wildly differing accents; Madame D. is played by Tilda Swinton and sounds British, while her son Dmitri is played by Adrien Brody and sounds American. Even Saoirse Ronan is finally able to use her native Irish accent.
  • Obviously Evil: Dmitri and Jopling couldn't look more villainous if they tried.
  • Off with His Head!: Happens to the poor sister of Serge at Jopling's hands.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Can be heard during Dmitri's pursuit of Agatha.
  • Overly Long Gag:
    • The "take over" gag.
    • The monks repeatedly confirming Gustave's identity with the exact same line. Even Gustave gets tired of it.
      Monk: Are you Monsieur Gustave of the Grand Budapest Hotel in Nebelsbad?
    • The ridiculously long ladder in the prison.
  • Pet the Dog: Gustave comes across mostly as an asshole when we first meet him. Our first indication that he's a good guy is when he emotionally defends Zero from arrest.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Dmitri calls Gustave a "fucking faggot" when accusing him of seducing his mother. When Gustave points out how the accusations conflict, Dmitri covers by claiming that Gustave's bisexual.
  • Posthumous Character: All of the characters are posthumous taken from the very first scene; the tale comes from the now-deceased Author, who first heard it when he was young and Zero an old man.
  • Precision F-Strike: Gustave, an impeccably proper gentleman, is prone to sudden outbursts of incongruous and almost childish cursing.
  • Punk Rock: The first shot we see is a mohawked punk rock fellow having a smoke in front of a graveyard. Later, we get a good look at the young woman reading the Author's book - her jacket is covering up what appears to be a punk rock shirt and she has several buttons pinned to her, each of which seem advertise local bands.note 
  • Purple Is Powerful: The Grand Budapest Hotel, one of the finest grand hotels in Europe, has purple as the predominant color for its staff, especially Monsieur Gustave.
  • Putting on the Reich: Zubrowka has its own homegrown "Zig-Zag" fascist movement which both Dmitri and Jopling are members of. Its emblem is a double Z in a style reminiscent of a mirror-image version of the "sig rune" emblem of the SS, and towards the end soldiers are seen wearing black uniforms reminiscent of SS ones.
  • Quick Nip: Jopling always keeps a small bottle of whisky in his breast pocket, next to a gun.
  • Rags to Riches: Zero, who goes from a poor, uneducated immigrant to the richest man in Zubrowka. However, it eventually circles back, as he ends up spending his entire fortune to keep the hotel open.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Inspector Henckels. When the soldiers rough up Gustave and Zero on the train, Henckels hears the two out and tells Gustave to contact him if there is any further trouble with Zero's immigration status. He handles the deaths and crimes that take place very seriously, doesn't allow Jopling to hang around a crime scene (and makes it quite clear he knows he's somehow responsible for Kovacs's murder) and makes finding the murderer of Serge's sister top priority. At the end of the movie, when a gunfight breaks out between Dmitri (who is trying to shoot Gustave) and the other soldiers staying in the hotel, he orders a full ceasefire and tries to find out who started everything. Upon learning that Dmitri began it but was shooting at a man already wanted for various other crimes including the alleged murder of Dmitri's mother, Henckels orders everyone to stay where they're at until he's had a chance to get to the bottom of things. And when Agatha finds a letter hidden with the painting, he hears her out and reads it in front of everybody, clearing Gustave's name and getting him a fortune.
  • Really Gets Around: Gustave, albeit usually with blonde older women. He does, however, state he might blow the black market profit of the sale of "Boy with Apple" on whisky and hookers.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Zero and Gustave use a humorously pornographic painting (the credits title it "Two Lesbians Masturbating") to replace Boy With Apple, yet Dmitri doesn't notice until much later.
  • Ruritania: With its mix of German, Hungarian and Slavic naming elements, Catholicism, fallen nobility and rising fascists, Zubrowka is strongly reminiscent of the former lands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire between the wars.
  • Scenery Porn: As with all Wes Anderson films, the costuming and scenery is all highly stylized and beautiful.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Kovacs' very precise manner of speaking.
  • Shout-Out: Many.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Agatha, the quiet put-on baker and real genius of Mendl's, runs through hails of gunfire and risks getting decapitated by an angry fascist to be with the boy she loves (and help out the man lording over the boy she loves).
  • Sinister Shiv: The 'throat-slitter' made by M. Gustave's cellmates. It is used both to slice up the Mendl's pastries smuggled to them, and for its named purpose during the Great Escape.
  • Skewed Priorities: Apparently the Society of Crossed Keys will abandon whatever they're doing to help a fellow member, up to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and assisting evacuation during a fire.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Gustave is very dapper, elegant, courteous and impressively foul-mouthed. For instance, he refers to an elderly and frightened friend as "Shaking like a shitting dog."
  • Stylistic Suck: Gustave's long, terrible poems. The scene always mercifully cuts away before they're finished.
    • The shoot out in the hotel has a few very choppy cuts at the beginning
    • The film uses a large amount of miniature models for exteriors. The sled chase scene is the most obvious example.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Inspector Henckels is an honest, dedicated officer doing his job. He is visibly upset at having to arrest Gustave, but doesn't let his personal feelings get in the way.
  • Tattooed Crook: Harvey Keitel's convict character, Ludwig, who plots the escape with his shirt off.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: The Author and Zero.
  • Translation Convention: Most of the on-screen text (signs, newspapers, documents, etc.) is in English (with several instances of German), so is the dialogue (with some instances of subtitled French), leading to the conclusion that English stands in for Zubrowkan language for the viewers' convenience.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Dmitri becomes increasingly aggressive in his pursuit for Boy With Apple and the evidence shows that he killed his mother after Jopling dies.
  • We All Live in America: Sure, Zubrovka may be a fictional country, but as a 1930s Eastern European fascist dictatorship, it is still highly unlikely to practice the common law judicial system, complete with a jury of twelve.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Lampshaded by a news article in the end stating that Dmitri has disappeared, with a subtitle, "Where's Dmitri?"