The year 1968 was the new Hollywood era. The norms of filmmaking were being challenged and experimenting with different narratives became a cinema specialty. Making it only natural that from the depths of Houston, Wes Anderson was born. Probably floating down a symmetrical river with a tint just blue enough to make you feel nostalgic for a time that never really existed. While it may be hard to believe that directors are born into similar worlds they create, it is even harder to believe that Wes Anderson just came into the world like a regular person. The cinema that he has been creating for decades is less film and more art, he simply uses a video and some actors to propel an artistic path he wants to pursue. Perhaps that’s what makes his movies so compelling, the fact that they really aren’t movies at all.
Nothing about a Wes Anderson film has ever felt unplanned. There are no infamous five-minute Tarantino scenes that are violent just to be violent, this might be because Anderson is known as a ‘direct director’. Meaning he is in charge of the artistic and dramatic aspects of the film, through control of the script, actors, and set production. All three things have made Anderson’s films so appealing to the public. When you sit down to watch a Wes Anderson film there is no guessing, you see his vision as clearly as he has presented it. Nothing more nothing less, no unnecessary scenes, and certainly no unnecessary characters, which is demonstrated by the small number of actors he uses in each movie. The smaller the cast the more controlled the scene, actors in Anderson’s movies tend to work for the scene, music, and script not with it. An example being the pivotal scene in Moonrise Kingdom when Sam and Suzy kiss for the first time to the music of Françoise Hardy Le Temps De L’amour. Here the music represents more than anything that the actors are doing. Anderson portrays the naivety of young love as the two, literal, children dance to a song about the fleeting permanence of love in a young heart.
No place no time
Another traditional Anderson move is to create films set in a reality like ours yet wildly different at the same time. Anderson plays with ideas of anachronism, from the Greek word ‘anachronous’ which essentially means ‘against time’. That is the best way to describe the time periods of Anderson’s films, against time. Although many of his films are known to be set in specific years, there is always an element of irregularity. It’s as if he creates characters to live in a time period that almost existed or could have existed but never quite came to be. Something that adds to this feeling is Anderson’s reuse of actors, as he tends to rotate the same actors throughout all his movies. French actress Léa Seydoux who has appeared in three Anderson films thinks that the repetition of actors is all down to Wes’ need to “feel a deep connection with the actors”. Unlike in other movies, there is no distance between actors and the director, creating the typical Anderson feeling of over-perfection in each scene. Which begs the question, what makes Bill Murray so special that he has been in all of Anderson’s films except one? Maybe we’ll just have to watch and see.
Likely the most famous aspect of Wes Anderson’s directing style is his use of symmetry. The intense symmetry found in Anderson’s films adds another layer of fantasy to the story, as his worlds are created in seemingly perfect harmony and equilibrium. This is largely due to his symmetrical editing style and use of pattern events, a technique Anderson uses to convey connections between characters and settings. Pattern editing in movies allows the same shot to be repeated with different characters in different settings. While symmetrical editing is simply the optimal placement of the camera to capture the most symmetrical shot. He famously uses this technique in The Grand Budapest Hotel, in the ‘Society of the crossed Keys’ scene. This moment of the film is intense, as the suave Gustave H is in need of saving from the concierges of the most elite hotels. While this sense of severity is conveyed through the pattern of events and quickly changing frames, a feeling of familiarity is also seen. As each concierge is seen at an almost identical and symmetrical desk, demonstrating the unspoken connection between each of these men and conveying the balance that they bring to each other as they work to save one of their own.
Check out Accidentally Wes Anderson, for Anderson-inspired scenes.