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Wes Anderson and Stefan Zweig on The Grand Budapest Hotel

abstract:The world is divided into those who are fans of Wes Anderson films and those who are not. (Royal Tanenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, The Life Aquatic, The Squid and the Whale) Fans looking for insight into the director/producer/Oscar-winning screenwriter's sources of inspiration and technique should check out this recent conversation between George Prochnik, author of The Impossible Exile and Wes that took place at the NY public library. The topic of discussion is European literary icon - Stephan Zweig's influence on Wes's film, The Grand Budapest Hotel based on two of his books: Beware of Pity and The Post-Office Girl.

The Budapest Hotel is a richly cast feature film with Tom Wilkenson, Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law et al.

Stephan Zweig (1981-1942) was a Jewish-Austrian author, playwright, journalist, biographer and pacifist who wrote prolifically and passionately about people and history. He moved from Vienna to escape Nazi persecution and then

article:

April 23, 2014
— to Switzerland, London and New York, finally settling in Rio De Janeiro. The day after he submitted his autobiography he and his wife co-committed suicide by barbiturate overdose. They were found holding hands. He remained nostalgic for pre-war life in Europe and advocated a united Europe and humanism. A note said, "I think it better to conclude in good time and in erect bearing a life in which intellectual labour meant the purest joy and personal freedom the highest good on Earth". Stephan's work has had a profound influence on Anderson (see note below).

The Paris Review writes,

"Wes Anderson, whose new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is based not just on one novel but on an entire oeuvre—that of Stefan Zweig, an Austrian writer whose work Anderson has helped revive. In fact, Zweig’s influence on Anderson is so profound that the filmmaker compiled The Society of the Crossed Keys, a new anthology of Zweig’s work. Unfortunately, the collection is only available in the UK, but its constituents—Zweig’s memoir, the novel Beware of Pity, and the novella “Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman”—can be found separately in the US.

Both Zweig and Budapest find comedy and melancholy in the changing landscape of 1930s Europe, and Anderson is quick to admit his debt to Zweig. The film features two characters meant as stand-ins for the writer—there’s the hotel’s nostalgic, effete concierge, M. Gustave, and the unnamed Author, who appears throughout as a narrator and interlocutor. But Zweig’s influence on Anderson extends far beyond this latest film. Though Anderson says he came across Zweig’s books only six or seven years ago, the pair have long shared similar themes and aesthetics, even if Anderson didn’t know it.

For starters, consider their fastidious preoccupation with appearance. In an essay examining The Royal Tenenbaums against J. D. Salinger—another of Anderson’s literary influences—Matt Zoller Seitz established a concept called “material synecdoche—showcasing objects, locations, or articles of clothing that define whole personalities, relationships, or conflicts.” Anderson uses his meticulously designed mise-en-scène as visual shorthand for his characters. It’s how we understand the Tenenbaums from their wardrobe, their childhood bedrooms, and the way the opening scene itemizes the things in those rooms. It’s one of Anderson’s favorite storytelling mechanisms"

Another great link about Zweig on the Huffington Post.

Confusion
The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World

George Prochnik | Paul Holdengräber
Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at 7 p.m.
The Joy Gottesman Ungerleider Lecture
Get Tickets

 

 

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