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How Wes Anderson and Co. Perfected the Grand Budapest

As a love letter to the luxurious hotels of aristocratic Europe—the kind you'd go to for a raucous New Years Eve fête, or for a six-week stay to recover from whatever neurotic pseudo-malaise was in vogue that season—Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel hinges on visual styling even more than his usual fare. Centered around the exploits of Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the fictitious Grand Budapest's devoted and eccentric concierge, the film alternates between 1932, during the height of the hotel's grandeur, and the 1960s, by which time it has all but descended into shabbiness.

To sustain both visions of the hilltop retreat, Anderson relied on production designer Adam Stockhausen, with whom he had previously worked on Moonrise Kingdom and The Darjeeling Limited, and who was recently nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the architecturally aware 12 Years a Slave. As Stockhausen explained to Architectural Digest, the goal was to get "the entire structure of the hotel to feel like an integrated whole with the storytelling." Below, take a tour through the film's meticulously crafted sets and miniatures, and some of the real hotels that inspired them.


↑ On his first location-scouting expedition, Anderson was drawn to the former building of the Görlitzer Warenhaus department store in Görlitz, Germany, which was eventually taken over wholesale by the crew, its interiors turned into the movie's primary sets, and its top floor serving as the production office. A good deal of the film is set in the lobby of the 1913 building, which was chosen for its sweeping stairways and generous atrium. According to Stockhausen, the early 20th-century German artistic style of Jugendstil was the main influence for the sumptuous decor. "It's an interesting style with a lot of variation," he says. "Not as singular as Art Deco or even the classic Art Nouveau I was used to seeing in books."



↑ An early-twentieth-century bathhouse in Görlitz was used as the hotel's spa.

Photos via Grandhotel Pupp
↑ Inspiration for the Grand Budapest was gathered from a variety of sources; as Stockhausen puts it, "anything we could find on hotel history or luxury travel," from books to old photographs from the Library of Congress. The crew also scouted real hotels for ideas, one of the richest sources of which was the Grandhotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. The 228-room hotel was built in 1701, and has a red-carpeted lobby bar and a flagship restaurant that are directly reminiscent of the Grand Budapest's. Echoing the eventual fate of the Grand Budapest, the Pupp was nationalized by Czechoslovakia's communist government in 1951 and gradually fell into decline. Whereas Anderson's hotel is eventually demolished, the Pupp was privatized in 1989 and restored to something approaching its former glory. Bond fans will recognize it as the Hotel Splendide from Casino Royale.



↑ As any Anderson fan worth his salt can attest, dude loves miniatures. The bright-pink nine-foot model of the Grand Budapest, which got its own writeup last month in the New York Times, is the latest dollhouse-like creation to come from the director's interest in old-fashioned artificiality. Built at Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam, Germany, the mini Budapest was featured in a promotional poster in front of a hand-painted mural of the Alps that was created for the interior shots of the dining room.



↑ Ralph Fiennes' peculiar and often hilarious Gustave is the animating presence of the Grand Budapest. Speaking to Arch Digest, Stockhausen notes that the film is largely about "Monsieur Gustave's world being lost and forgotten." Consequently, the space was planned so that it "reflects him through its color palette and style."

↑ Anderson and Stockhausen drew inspiration from a number of hotels that have since toned down the opulence of their glory days, including the Savoy and the St. Pancras in London. A few of their sources have been lost entirely, like the original Hotel Adlon in Berlin and the old Waldorf-Astoria, which was demolished for the construction of the Empire State Building in 1929.



↑ "The dining room was set in a performance space with a stage, so a backdrop seemed right," says Stockhausen. "We saw references from other hotels that had banquets in ballrooms with mountain paintings." To create the backdrop, in front of which much of the film's narration takes place, Anderson and Stockhausen had painter Michael Lenz recreate the style of 19th-century landscape artist Caspar David Friedrich.



↑ The midcentury version of the Grand Budapest is done up in a kind of drab-chic mixture of burnt orange and lime green. The German department store that became what Stockhausen calls the film's "very large and complicated set" was first redone with a '30s overlay, after which the '60s set was built on top of that.

· Step Into the Spectacular World of Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel [Architectural Digest]
· Come, Live on the Set of Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom [Curbed National]
· All Hotels Week 2014 coverage [Curbed National]
· All Silver Screen posts [Curbed National]