Almost Composed

Meditation and curiosity

The Grand Budapest Hotel as allegory

March 21, 2014

I’d recommend watching Wes Anderson’s new film before reading on.

I’ve only seen it once but I think The Grand Budapest Hotel is an allegory for the first half of the 20th Century and the fall of the British Empire.

A hotel makes a good a metaphor for the world: people are checking in and out all the time. Its owner is mysteriously absent. He sends a representative, Kovacs, but we learn that the hotel is effectively run by the concierge, M. Gustave, who in this theory represents the British Empire. Zero Moustafa, the orphaned lobby boy, stands for the USA. The first time the train stops in the barley field represents WWI; the second time, WWII, after which the inheritance of global hegemony passes decisively to Zero, i.e. the USA.

There are a few clues that support my interpretation:

  1. Agatha, who has a ‘birthmark shaped like Mexico’ on her cheek, suggests that people can stand for nations in the logic of the film. The young Zero is connected to her.
  2. The scene towards the end when everyone comes out of their hotel room to start shooting at each other.
  3. M. Gustave is described as an anachronism whose time had already passed. Fiennes’ character associates with old Europe, reads romantic poetry and is perhaps quintessentially ‘British’ to an American audience.

That’s my theory, anyway.

categories: reflections
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