Wes Anderson fans are very much aware that his new movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, opens this week (officially tomorrow). His films have a special place in the hearts of the design community, as his attention to detail for everything from fonts to set design is legendary. Last night Anderson told Terry Gross that his aesthetic is almost like handwriting to him, something that's very much him but that comes out almost subconsciously.
For a great interview that gets into the details of Anderson's complex sets, check out this Q&A with the film's lead graphic designer, Annie Atkins, in Creative Review. The new movie takes place in the fictional country of The State of Zubrowka, which meant Atkins was tasked with creating all the government documents a nation would need, from maps and currency to flags and stamps, all inspired by artifacts from Eastern Europe in the 1930s. "I use traditional methods in graphic prop-making wherever possible: a real 1930s typewriter for typewritten documents; a dipping pen and ink for any handwriting. Pieces have to be aged, too, as nothing should look like it was made in an art department five minutes ago. Madame D's last will and testament took a lot of aging, for example, as it contained over 600 pieces that were scripted as being some 46 years old. I have some tricks of the trade that I've learnt over the years... mostly involving a big vat of tea and a hair dryer," Atkins told Creative Review.
She added that Anderson is such a stickler for details that he only wants handmade props, nothing that comes from a machine, and that even the props only the actors would see had to look a certain way."There's probably more to graphics in film than is immediately apparent," she said. "If a character has a notice board in his office, for example, then you have to fill that board with relevant material, all in the right style for both the period and the director's vision. You're not always designing for the camera: much of this work will never be seen by a cinema audience, but still you have to create an atmosphere and a world for the actors to work their magic in." As for the typefaces, they were all created by hand too.
Atkins' and Anderson's thought process for bringing this country, and more specifically the characters inhabiting the namesake hotel, to life for The Grand Budapest Hotel is fascinating. The full interview with Atkins is a great read, as was Anderson's Fresh Air chat.
Atkins has an exhibition of her work from The Grand Budapest set on display in Dublin this month at the Light House Cinema, for those who'll be in the area. The rest of us can just look very closely at the film this week.
Images from Light House Cinema