Their Favourite Film – Darcey Owens

by Christopher Roberts

Each month sound recordist and film buff Christopher Roberts talks to one of our members about ‘Their Favourite Film’

Chris : Hi again members of the Collective, welcome to another ‘Their Favourite Film’ post! Darcey Owens is a newcomer to the film industry having work on various shorts in Essex, including ‘You Know Me’ and ‘Waiting for Gateau’, and is now taking the next step by going to University to study film. So what made Darcey, like many of us in ESSEX FILM COLLECTIVE, go down this path, to accept the challenges it brings and the aim for the rewards that it offers? Well, why not let her tell us in her own words as we visit the small country of Zubroka as she talks about the film that inspired her.

Darcy Owens – Grand Budapest Hotel

Darcey : I never appreciated film until I discovered the art form that it truly is. Most people use film as an escape and a respite from the hardships of life, which is in many ways what it is designed to be. It was only in discovering The Grand Budapest Hotel that I first researched the inner workings of film and the genius behind creating this perfect world, which I find myself revisiting time and time again. 

 By definition, Wes Anderson is a director, a creative visionary for a scripted piece. His films are simultaneously distinct and relentlessly detailed. Anderson has deconstructed the very concept of a frame. He places the viewer into a shot where every element is tailored to perfection that it’s uncomfortable for the viewer, who are typically exposed to organic narratives. 

 A story within a story within a story within a story, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a tragedy shown in the most gorgeous and aesthetic manner. It is a perfect blend between narrative intrigue and the Anderson trademark stylisation. This film is made for observation, a gallery of shots pieced together to satisfy the artistic eye. Miss one frame and you’ve missed an entire dialogue of visual narrative. Each shot is an integral part of the story; nothing is accidental, as all angles aid and propel the thread of this story. The more I investigated the film, the more my fascination, obsession and utter awe for it grew. 

Anderson’s use of colour palette, symmetry and props are his most identifying techniques. You could watch one of his films and immediately recognise it through these tools. His colour palette for The Grand Budapest Hotel is shot with vibrant hues of red, pink, blue, purple, orange, yellow and brown, providing a fantastical palette. Every frame is a colourful page of a storybook, allowing Anderson to be more fanciful with the plot yet still appear natural within this artificial setting. Throughout the film, Anderson uses symmetry to frame the characters and actions of the film. This adds to the artificial feel of the movie, where each character seems to be posed for a formal portrait and attention to detail is predominant. Every scene is carefully crafted so that the composition is perfectly set out. The Grand Budapest Hotel is loyal to the old-fashioned methods instead of relying on technology’s convenience. This only lends to the movie’s individualistic charm and adds to the creation of Anderson’s world. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel started my ever-growing passion for film and inspiration for creating art through the visual form. I fell in love with this film because it was the first film I had ever watched that evinces a passion for filmmaking translated into every angle, colour palette and symmetrical frame. This is not just the story of The Grand Budapest Hotel but also a love story between Anderson and film.

My Thoughts

Chris : In the Oxford Dictionary an auteur is described as “A Film Director who influences their film so much that they rank as their author” stating that no matter who wrote the script or produced it, the director is the one with complete creative control and make it with their vision. When you watch films from this type of director, you notice their trademarks and styles. Like Edgar Wright, with fast action style editing involving whip pans and crash zooms for mundane tasks, or Martin Scorsese and his use of freeze frames and long tracking shots. Many directors have been dubbed auteurs as their use their style to visually add something to the film; sometimes it’s subtle, and you wouldn’t really notice unless you’ve seen many of their films. However, with Wes Anderson, it’s different; from the moment the film begins, you know who’s behind the camera making this. An artistical yet quirky style that is so well known it has even been parodied in pop culture (check out SNL Wes Anderson Horror trailer sketch and thank me later). When people ask me to describe the movie or what genre it is, all I can simply say is that it’s a Wes Anderson movie. Its is a style that is also perfectly shown in the Grand Budapest Hotel

While Darcey has described Anderson’s use of colour and cinematography perfectly, there’s another thing about his films that makes them so unique and great to watch, and that’s the characters. Most Wes Anderson films focus on child characters and dysfunctional family dynamics, primarily with father figures. I can’t think of a more perfect example of this than Zero and M.Gustave. What started as a concierge mentoring the new lobby boy and both having a strong vocation to the hotel, grew to be a close friendship and a sort of father and son relationship in the end. Despite them both having vastly different backgrounds and personalities, there is a void in each other’s lives that the other fills. Zero has no family, and despite Gustave being well respected and having a gaggle of older ladies fallen for him, he seems to have no real connection with anyone. It was great to then see their chemistry grow and watch as they help each other in their hour of need and form a strong bond. 

Tony Revolori was great as the lobby boy, someone who is quiet and reserved but is also loyal to the end and would risk anything to help those he cares for. However, for me, it is Ralph Fiennes performance that stole the show as Gustave, a character who, despite living in a time where war and savagery are slowly spreading across Europe, tries to bring back some civilisation and class at his hotel and with the people he meets. Ralph Fiennes captures the character perfectly, and despite being known for his more serious roles such as Lord Voldemort or Amon Goeth, he gave me the most laughs doing a performance you imagine someone like Peters Sellers would do, as well as adding warmth and charm to one of Europe’s finest concierges. Characters like these added to Wes Anderson’s colourful and surrealistic world and made it more enjoyable to watch. This, including his quirky deadpan humour, vibrant colour pallet, and symmetrical and profile shots, is, as always, what made his film a Wes Anderson film.

My Favourite Fact

In one Scene, Harvey Keitel’s character slaps Zero across the face after wishing him luck; there were no tricks, it was an actual slap across the face. However, it took Wes Anderson 42 takes of Harvey Keitel slapping Tony Revolori’s face before he was happy with a take.

Darcey Owens worked on our micro short film ‘You Know Me’ last year, as well as on various other short films around Essex.

Chris Roberts has worked on many film projects across Essex as a boom operator and production assistant. Chris is a full time film trivia expert!

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