The film is an American-German-British co-production that was financed by German financial companies and film-funding organizations and was filmed in Germany. The Grand Budapest Hotel was released to widespread acclaim from film critics, and many included it in their year-end top-10 lists. The film led the BAFTA nominations, with its 11 nominations including Best Film and Best Director for Anderson, and Best Actor for Fiennes. The film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and garnered three more Golden Globe Award nominations, including Best Director for Anderson. It also garnered nine Academy Award nominations, joining Birdman for the most nominations and wins for the ceremony. It won the Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Production Design and Best Original Score. In a 2016 BBC poll, critics voted the film the 21st greatest since 2000.
In the present day, a teenage girl approaches a statue in a courtyard. In her arms is a memoir by "The Author." She begins reading about a trip he made to the Grand Budapest Hotel in the late 1960s. He discovered that the nearly deserted hotel, located in the Republic of Zubrowka, a nation ravaged by war and poverty, had fallen on hard times and become dilapidated.
The Author meets Mr Moustafa, the hotel's owner who tells him over dinner the tale of how he took ownership of the Grand Budapest and why he is unwilling to close it down.
The owner's story begins in 1932 during the final years of the hotel's glory days. Zubrowka is on the verge of war but this is of little concern to M. Gustave, the Grand Budapest's devoted concierge. When he is not attending to the needs of the hotel's wealthy clientele, managing its staff or training the new Lobby Boy, Zero (a younger Moustafa), Gustave courts a series of aging, blonde women who all flock to the hotel to enjoy his "exceptional service." One of these, Madame D, spends the night with Gustave prior to her departure.
A month later, he is informed that Madame D has died under mysterious circumstances. He and Zero race to her wake where he learns that she bequeathed him a valuable painting in her will. This enrages her family, all of whom hoped to inherit it, especially her son, Dmitri Desgoffe-und-Taxis. Gustave and Zero take the painting and hide it in a safe at the Grand Budapest. He is then arrested and framed for the murder of Madame D.
In prison, Gustave befriends a group of hardened cons who include him in their escape plan and with the aid of Zero's new fiance Agatha, the group escape the maximum security prison. They part ways and Gustave teams up with Zero to prove his innocence. Their adventure takes them to a mountaintop monastery where they meet with Madames D's butler Serge X, the only person who can provide Gustav with an alibi for the night of Madame D's murder. However, Serge is murdered by J.G. Jopling, a henchman hired by Dmitri. Zero and Gustave steal a sled and chase Jopling as he flees the monastery. During a clash on the edge of a cliff, Zero manages to kill the assassin and rescue his mentor.
Zero and Gustave return to the Hotel, which the military has commandeered as war has just broken out. They find that Dmitri has also turned up, chasing Agatha, who was entrusted with the painting. A chase and a gunfight ensue, and a different version of Madame D's will is discovered hidden in the painting by Serge X, in which she bequeaths her entire fortune including the Grand Budapest to Gustave in the event that she should be murdered.
During a train trip, soldiers search Gustave's carriage and he is killed during an argument, a scene which parallels an earlier event on the way to Madame D's wake. A heartbroken Zero vows to continue his legacy at the Grand Budapest but the ongoing conflict and the ravages of time take their toll. Agatha succumbs to a disease and dies a few years later.
Zero then confesses to the Author that he can't bring himself to close the hotel because it's his last link to his dearly departed wife and the best years of his life. The Author later departs for South America and never returns to the hotel. The hotel is eventually demolished, though Zero's ultimate fate is left unknown. Back in the present, the girl finishes reading the author's story about the Grand Budapest and leaves the courtyard.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is an American-German-British co-production of Wes Anderson's American Empirical Pictures (US), Indian Paintbrush (US), Neunzehnte Babelsberg Film GmbH (Germany) and Grand Budapest Limited (UK). The film was funded by the German Federal Film Fund (DFFF), Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg as well as Medien- und Filmgesellschaft Baden-Württemberg.
Anderson and Guinness' story was inspired by several works by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, particularly the novella Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman (1927), the novel Beware of Pity (1939) and his autobiography The World of Yesterday (1934–42). Wes Anderson suggested editor Barney Pilling watch Ernst Lubitsch's The Shop Around the Corner and the films of Jacques Tati as references.
It was filmed entirely on location in Germany, mainly in Görlitz and other parts of Saxony as well as at Studio Babelsberg. Principal photography began in January 2013 on location in Berlin and Görlitz. One of the principal locations was the defunct Görlitz Department Store, a huge Jugendstil department store with a giant atrium, one of the few such department stores in Germany to survive World War II. It served as the atrium lobby of the hotel. The widow's mansion was filmed partially within Schloss (castle) Waldenburg. Filming concluded in March 2013.
Anderson shot the film in three aspect ratios, 1.37, 1.85, and 2.35:1, one for each timeline.
For wide shots of the hotel, Anderson used a three-meter-tall (10 ft) handmade miniature model, as he felt that audiences would know that the shot was artificial, computer-generated effects or otherwise, commenting: "The particular brand of artificiality that I like to use is an old-fashioned one." He had previously used miniatures in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and more extensively in Fantastic Mr. Fox. In designing the hotel, Anderson and production designer Adam Stockhausen did extensive research, looking at vintage images at the Library of Congress of hotels and European vacation spots, as well as existing locales such as the pastel-pink Palace Bristol Hotel prominently featured on movie advertisements and the Grandhotel Pupp in the spa town of Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), Czech Republic and the Grandhotel Gellért in Budapest. The model used varying scales: the hotel model was 4 meters (14 ft) long and 2 meters (7 ft) deep, the tree-spotted hill on which it stood was a different scale, and finally the funicular railway in the foreground was built to a third scale to capture it best cinematically.
The painting in the film, Boy with Apple, supposedly a Renaissance masterpiece by one Johannes Van Hoytl the Younger, is a fictional piece commissioned by Anderson and painted in four months by professional artist Michael Taylor. Likewise the much sought after pastry, Herr Mendl's courtesan au chocolat, is a humorous fictional creation of Wes Anderson's, as a symbol of the courtesan lifestyle of the concierge, the triple tier form of the story, and as an element to escape prison. The bespoke pastry was produced by a local baker in Görlitz. The brief was to come up with something related to a classic religieuse, which is French for 'nun', with chocolate covered stacked profiteroles resembling a nun in black robes. The fake newspapers in the film feature mainly original text, but also use some excerpts from three Wikipedia articles.
The Visual Effects were done by the German VFX Company LUXX Studios.
The soundtrack is composed by Alexandre Desplat, who worked with Anderson previously on Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom. It is co-produced by Anderson with music supervisor Randall Poster; they, too, worked together on Moonrise Kingdom. The original music is by Desplat, along with Russian folk songs together with pieces composed by Öse Schuppel, Siegfried Behrend, and Vitaly Gnutov, and performed by the Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra.
Wes Anderson and Randall Poster chose the distinctive sound of the balalaika to establish the musical voice of the film and managed to gather two orchestras for a total of 35 balalaika musicians for the recording of the soundtrack including the France-based "Saint Georges" Balalaika Orchestra and the State Academic Russian Folk Ensemble "Russia" from Moscow. Desplat’s use of the balalaika begins with “Mr. Moustafa” but it returns over and over again. Other instruments in this soundtrack include alphorns, whistles, organ, male choir, bells and cimbalom.
The 32 tracks, with orchestral elements, keyboard instruments and balalaikas, feature eclectic variations and central European melodic themes. Balalaikas are used in "Overture: M. Gustave H" and church organs in "Last Will and Testament". A music box interlude punctuates "Up the Stairs / Down the Hall", and there are haunted-house piano stylings in "Mr. Moustafa". Harpsichords and strings are featured in the baroque piece, "Concerto for Lute and Plucked Strings I. Moderato". The opening song, the Appenzell yodel "s'Rothe-Zäuerli" by Ruedi and Werner Roth, is from the Swiss folk group's Öse Schuppel's album Appenzeller Zäuerli.
All tracks written by Alexandre Desplat, except where noted.
The film was released on 7 March 2014 and was the opening film for the 64th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2014. At Berlin, the film won the Jury Grand Prix Silver Bear award.
The Grand Budapest Hotel was released on DVD and Blu-ray on 17 June 2014 in the United States and on 7 July 2014 in the United Kingdom
The Grand Budapest Hotel received widespread critical acclaim, particularly for the film's visual style, Anderson's screenplay and direction, and Fiennes' lead performance. Film aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 92% "Certified Fresh" rating, with an average score of 8.4/10, based on reviews from 267 critics. The consensus states: "Typically stylish but deceptively thoughtful, The Grand Budapest Hotel finds Wes Anderson once again using ornate visual environments to explore deeply emotional ideas." Metacritic reported a score of 88 out of 100, based on 48 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Many ranked it one of the best films of 2014.
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review, saying "In a very appealing if outre way, its sensibility and concerns are very much those of an earlier, more elegant era, meaning that the film's deepest intentions will fly far over the heads of most modern filmgoers." Dave Calhoun of Time Out gave the film four out of five stars, saying "The film's shaggy-dog, sort-of-whodunit yarn offers laughs and energy that make this Anderson's most fun film since Rushmore." Jocelyn Noveck of the Associated Press gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "In the end it's Fiennes who makes the biggest impression. His stylized, rapid-fire delivery, dry wit and cheerful profanity keep the movie bubbling along. Here's to further Fiennes-Anderson collaborations." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A-, saying "I've had my Wes Anderson breakthrough – or maybe it's that he's had his. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a marvelous contraption, a wheels-within-wheels thriller that's pure oxygenated movie play." Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News gave the film three out of five stars, saying "As with all of Anderson's films, the magic is in the cast. Fiennes, with his rapid-fire delivery and rapier mustache, is hilarious, dapper and total perfection."
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film three and a half out of four stars, saying "It's a filigreed toy box of a movie, so delicious-looking you may want to lick the screen. It is also, in the Anderson manner, shot through with humor, heartbreak and a bruised romantic's view of the past." Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a positive review, saying "Anderson works so assiduously to create obsessively detailed on-screen worlds that the effect has sometimes been hermetic, even stifling. "The Grand Budapest," however, is anything but." Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "While Anderson delights in creating a fictional (but very real) mittel-Europe, he also does it with the craft of old Hollywood, using carefully made miniatures and handpainted backdrops." A. O. Scott of The New York Times gave the film a positive review, saying "This movie makes a marvelous mockery of history, turning its horrors into a series of graceful jokes and mischievous gestures. You can call this escapism if you like. You can also think of it as revenge." Peter Howell of the Toronto Star gave the film four out of four stars, saying "The entire movie is like a giant, elaborately decorated cake, created by this most exacting of film craftsmen. And how tasty it is!"
Ty Burr of The Boston Globe gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "With The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson is up to his old tricks but with a magnanimous new confidence that feels like a gift." Bruce Ingram of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of five stars, saying "It's quintessential Anderson, in other words, but also an unabashed entertainment. And that's something to see." Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film four out of four stars, saying "The Grand Budapest Hotel is by far the most headlong comedic affair in Anderson's canon. It's practically Marx Brothers-ian at moments. And Fiennes – who knew he was capable of such wicked, witty timing?!" Christopher Orr of The Atlantic gave the film a positive review, saying "The comedy in The Grand Budapest Hotel is among the broadest yet undertaken by Anderson. But amid the frenzied hubbub, there are intimations of a darker, sadder history unfolding." A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club reviewed the film positively, saying "Anderson's latest invention, The Grand Budapest Hotel, may be his most meticulously realized, beginning with the towering, fictional building for which it's named."
James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three out of four stars, saying "It offers an engaging 90+ minutes of unconventional, comedy-tinged adventure that references numerous classic movies while developing a style and narrative approach all its own." Moira MacDonald of The Seattle Times gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "Every frame is carefully composed like the illustrations from a beloved book (characters are precisely centered; costumes are elaborately literal); the dialogue feels both unexpected and happily familiar." Colin Covert of the Star Tribune gave the film four out of four stars, saying "I'm not sure what the formal definition of a masterpiece is, but 'The Grand Budapest Hotel strikes me as something very close." Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post gave the film three out of four stars, saying "If Anderson buries relatively little moral substance under lavish dollops of rich cream, at least he, like his fascinating protagonist, sustains the illusion with a marvelous grace." Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film four out of four stars, saying "The movie's sad undertone saves The Grand Budapest Hotel from its own zaniness – or better yet, elevates the zaniness, making it feel like an assertion of some right to be silly, or some fundamental human expression."
In its theatrical release, The Grand Budapest Hotel has grossed US$174.8 million worldwide.
The film was Anderson's most successful live-action film in the United Kingdom, reaching number one at the UK box office in its third week with a gross of £6.31 million. The film was also Anderson's first number one film in the UK.
In North America, the film opened in four cinemas at number 17 in its first weekend, with US$811,166. In its second weekend, the film moved up to number eight, grossing an additional US$3,638,041. In its third weekend, the film moved up to number seven, grossing US$6,787,955. In its fourth weekend, the film moved up to number six, grossing US$8,539,795.