In the Oscar season of 2015, I decided to watch all the nominated movies. It was a great line-up and a great experience watching them all. Consisting of ‘American Sniper’, ‘Boyhood’, ‘The Imitation Game’, ‘Whiplash’, ‘Birdman’, ‘The Theory of Everything’, ‘Selma’ and ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’; it is one of the best nominee lists in my opinion. While all of those movies were incredible, one of them opened my eyes wider than the others. That movie was The Grand Budapest Hotel.
I hadn’t explored Wes Anderson’s movies before then. As I was watching the film, it cast a spell. It took me a while to understand what was different. This movie had jarred me. I felt a little disoriented. And then in one scene, I realized what it was; Symmetry!
Now, I kept a close eye at how every scene was framed. The symmetry created any aura of surrealism. Every frame looked like an oil painting. But after the first few minutes of excitement it started feeling gimmicky. It started feeling forced. It was too much! It is not a very long film so it was over before I started feeling comfortable with the extravagant amount of symmetry.
The movie pulled me back to it. So I watched it again. The story was perfectly fine. And now that I knew the story, I focused on the cinematography and direction. And it opened my eyes to visual storytelling.
A few weeks later, I went to a special screening of ‘Moonrise Kingdom’, another work by Wes Anderson. Again, the symmetry jumped out but I was quite accustomed to it. And now I appreciated it not just for its uniqueness but also for its use as a storytelling tool.