There are two main approaches to the shootings of the film. The first one is to focus on the story and the characters, which will appear more schematic, for example, Stephen King’s adaptations. The second one is to emphasize on the well-developed characters, so the story mostly serves the purpose of disclosing the nature of the characters through different situations, in which they appear. Far fewer films have followed the latter approach. The two films chosen for the current essay are on the shortlist of concentration on characters – Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and Spike Jonze’s Her. The essay will examine the major actors in each of the films – Ralph Fiennes and Joaquin Phoenix respectively. The paper will reveal the similarity and differences of the acting demands for the mentioned actors as well as how the performers dealt with the demands, how it affected their characters. Finally, it will provide a brief discussion of films.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is not a comedy in its absolute form, but rather a deliberate mix of genres or a hybrid genre. The audience has a right not to smile or to keep a poker face during the entire screening. The majorly recognized director, Wes Anderson made a happy fairy story about the hotel that changes hands. As the story unfolds, the audience gets acquainted with dozens of the most outstanding characters that, despite their small role, are deeper and more interesting than the major characters in the well-known ‘blockbusters’. The discussed film comes as a combination of adorable tragicomedy with piercing atmosphere, absurd comedy with black humor and drama. In addition, its aesthetics is leaning towards art-house. A fair part of the fun of watching the movie is delivered by the emotional interaction patterns. The approach may make the perception challenging for some of the audience. Similarly, the movies about programmers filled with specifics of the profession do not necessarily attract everybody’s attention. The complexity of the film’s style and genre creates a specific demand on the actors, especially the ones with the major role. Ralph Fiennes in the character of Mr. Gustav proved his skills in coping with the performance demand; his character is alive and creates life. Fiennes has a history of success in many of his previous roles – from a serial killer and SS-brute to weird ‘mafioso’ with a keen sense of justice. However, he has never tried the comic character roles before. While having to work with the mixture of genres, according to Ralph himself, he has not played such multifaceted characters like Mr. Gustav. In The Grand Budapest Hotel, he finally had the opportunity, and he placed everything in his character that he was unable to show before. Ralph Fiennes admitted that it was a challenge as he had to reveal one part of himself he hated, which is the desire for immaculate control that is so typical of Mr. Gustav. Moreover, there were factors from the actor’s background that contributed to his performance. He once happened to have a real job as the apprentice in the high-class hospitality trade that helped him to understand what kind of real-life was behind Gustav. In his former role at István Szabó’s Sunshine, he had to work with a similar historical background and environment. Finally, he read Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday, a book, on which the film was based.
Fiennes’s performance in the discussed film is incomparable. His character seems to be more than a reflection of Wes Anderson’s design. The actor arranges a complete break of the template. His Gustav is devilishly charismatic, witty, courageous and, at the same time, tragic. Moreover, he showed a firm skill reciting his pretentious monologues in all seriousness to cynically ridicule all that pathos a second later. It is a significant challenge the actors face in the genre of comedy. Thus, in order to be funny, an actor has to act like a real person to whom something funny happens instead of being a funny comedian, as emphasized by Caine. Additionally, Fiennes had to learn a sophisticated technique of physical movements that were essential for the comic tone of the film.
Ralph fulfilled the task very well. Mr. Gustav makes an impression of a very intelligent man living in the ‘funny’ times, which he perceives both realistically and romantically. The times between the two World Wars, in which the action takes place, appear funny and light. They are shown either through the lens of a boy, Gustav’s protégé, or the childish memories of the old man who tells this story. In fact, Mr. Gustav seems the only one truly alive in between the wars, even though it is said that his world vanished long before he was born. Mr. Gustav experiences constant conflict between the two key principles – honesty and cynicism. He has paternal feelings for Zero which he avoids due to the need to train the boy professionally; he sleeps with the old women and admires purity; he claims to never part with the painting just to say they need to sell it instantly. However, he remains faithful to his best part, and eventually, he always makes the brave and right choice. It is his conviction. The instability of personality makes him human and provides for his means to accomplish the goal of completing the “Boy with apple” painting, as the rich inheritance intrudes in the routine of his life like some kind of fate. Mr. Gustav remains weightless and unmoved at any times, but he is the center of gravity of the film. After his departure from the scene, the hotel stays at the mercy of the great anonymity. The place lost the master, and the hotel becomes just another enriched unprofitable ruin. The message of the movie is also implicated in the way the death of Mr. Gustav is shown, or rather in how it is not shown. In fact, it was only mentioned that he was shot in contrast to the many scenes where other characters killed. Other characters faced the banality of death, which is indicated either in the presentation of a poisoned dead body, a severed head or the cut off fingers. Mr. Gustav maintains his character to the end, leaving the audience after the film with the cathartic mood encountering meditation over the vulnerability and value of human life. Thus, when a person like Gustav dies, the whole world vanishes with him, because he meant the world to some people. The broader message that the character delivers could be suggested as follows: the mean