"Agatha" - The Grand Budapest Hotel
|Above: "Agatha", the wife of Zero Moustafa to whom I refer in this article, played by Saoirse Ronan.|
I have just watched for the first time the 2014 Wes Anderson film The Grand Budapest Hotel. While I didn't find it terribly funny and wouldn't call it my favourite film of all time, there was an element of it which I found particularly beautiful. The plot of the film, a story within a story within a story, is a girl reading a book about an author's experiences listening to the tale of an old hotel owner.
This hotel owner, Mr "Zero" Moustafa, regails the author about an adventure he had as a young man with the hotel's former eccentric concierge M. Gustave (played by Ralph Fiennes). At first he only briefly mentions that he first met his wife-to-be around the same time as this adventure, but immediately dismisses it ("but we won't talk about her"), and we generally don't see much of the girl for the rest of the tale, it being based mostly around the whacky and wonderful Gustave (how could it not be?).
However, after Moustafa has finished his story, the author asks him if the reason he still owns the - by this point economically unprofitable - Grand Budapest Hotel is because it reminds him of Gustave's world. Moustafa surprisingly dismisses this, and reveals that the reason he still owns the hotel is that it was where he first met and had many happy times with his (late) wife.
This is a shocking revelation. It turns the entire film on its head. For the prior hour and a half we had been led to believe that Gustave was the most important character in the film. But this throwaway line by Mr Moustafa subtly revealed, to me at least, that we had been hearing the wrong story all along. Moustafa probably only told the author about Gustave because that was the story he thought he would want to hear - and he was probably right; Gustave was such an interesting bombastic character. But it was not the story we needed to hear. It was not the most important story. It was not the real story of Mr Moustafa's life. All along we had been seeing Moustafa's life from a particular angle: the wrong one. And our hearts pang that we never got to see much of Zero Moustafa's quiet humble spouse, and now that the story is over, and Moustafa has disappeared into history somewhen in 1968, we never will.
I hope I'm not reading too much into this and that it is the exquisite piece of storytelling I think it is. Because it truly proves that the most exciting stories aren't always the best ones, and the most bombastic people are rarely the most important.