On a recent revisit to The Grand Budapest Hotel, I found myself thinking about my love of Wes Anderson films as well as my friends who also enjoy those same films. I was looking at that particular demographic within my friends. The Wes Anderson fans tend to be humanities majors. Many of us would be defined by most of society as “good kids.” Most of us are practicing Christians. I can think of many reasons why we enjoy his films-color scheme, script/dialogue, characters, music, actors, lighting…the list could go on for a while. There are many things to love these movies. I mean…I’d totally let Wes Anderson plan my wedding.
The movies are pretty brilliant. They’re intelligent, eccentric, witty, and at least a little crass. It’s that mix that got me thinking. In Grand Budapest, M. Gustave (skillfully portrayed by Ralph Fiennes) goes from poetic dialogue that is not common in modern cinema to crass conversations or swearing. As I listened to Fiennes go seamlessly from reciting poetry to swearing, I wondered why this particular group of individuals enjoys this brand of cinema. I have plenty of good friends who wouldn’t enjoy the crass language. So why do other friends and I enjoy Anderson’s portrayal of the human experience? We don’t all have some crazy mustard yellow fixation, do we?
Then I posed this question to my roommate who also enjoys these films. She provided me with an answer that resonated with me. Wes Anderson’s film reminds us that we belong to both heaven and earth. In other words, these movies show us a vivid and all-too real depiction of the fallen condition of humanity. Life is not a fairy tale. We are not yet perfect. We aspire to the skies, but we fall short far too many times. We want to perfectly crafted sentences that use elegant language, but life falls short. We fall short. And in our more base moments, we fall back on crass language.
That crass language is far easier to use than those elegant phrases. Many times, it feels far more appropriate to swear than to use poetic language. There is a certain impact to “fuck” that “‘Twas first light, when I saw her face upon the heath, and hence did I return, day by day, entranced, though vinegar did brine my heart, never w…” just doesn’t have. Poetry is beautiful, but it often lacks a certain level of baseness that is so intrinsic to our human condition. There is something utterly satisfying about swearing or speaking in crass terms. Both swearing and poetry fit the human condition; they simply fall into different moments of life. These movies acknowledge both the baseness (earth) and elegance (heaven) of the human condition.
Beyond just the language, the films present a world that is flawed. These characters aren’t perfect. Their lives are far from perfect. These are not the stories to which we necessarily aspire. (Okay, certain parts of them definitely look appealing.) But there is something charming and endearing about these stories. The flaws and the charm resonate with us. Many of us have dysfunctional families. Many of us want to do something dramatic or exciting. Adventure appeals to us. Some of us wish that we looked good in mustard yellow. We realize that life doesn’t always give us happily-ever-afters. Anderson acknowledges that, but he also helps us to acknowledge the humor in the dark moments. Life is filled with elegance, with humor, and with profanity. Somehow, Anderson blends these elements together and makes them thoroughly delightful.
Also, there is Courtesan au Chocolat.