The Distribution of the Sensible in The Grand Budapest Hotel

by Nicole Rothwell Guerra
2848 words



Distribution of the Sensible

Film Techniques



If popular education is education that connects us with the lives and stories of everyday people and thereby can create bridges of understanding and solidarity, then films that represent those lives in rich detail and in a way that challenges viewers to think in new ways are vital educational tools. (Brown, 2011 p. 245)

            The film The Grand Budapest Hotel, written and directed by Wes Anderson and based on the writing of Stephan Zweig, is an example of one such popular educational tool that allows its viewers to learn more about the societies we live in (Anderson, 2014). The Grand Budapest Hotel (TGBH) follows the story of concierge Gustave and lobby boy Zero Mustafa’s adventures after being framed for the murder of a noble women from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka in the 1930s (Anderson, 2014). Zubrowka is styled after long gone Eastern European empires, such as the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, or Soviet, and portrays Zubrowka’s decline into war and poverty (Scott, 2014). Throughout the film, many diagenetic and non-diagenetic elements are used to hint at the fictional Republic’s similarities to real life western culture. Of importance is the fact that concierge Gustave is an educated Western man, while Mustafa is a stateless boy from Eastern descent, with the stories happenstances connecting these two unlikely characters. Zero’s wife Agatha highlights the importance of their connection by the end of the film, when reciting in lyrical fashion “Whence came these two radiant, celestial brothers, untied for an instance as they crossed the stratosphere of our starry window. One from the East and one from the West.” (Anderson, 20141:29:00). The importance of these characters backgrounds and connection proves Rancière’s concept of “distribution of the sensible”, where aesthetics allows director Wes Anderson, through the use of film techniques, to disrupt the senses of a western audience by presenting a refugee’s lived experience as a central theme making visible the status of Eastern refugees in Western European countries.  Due to its success within Western European audiences, with the majority of its global box office success deriving from audiences in UK and France, I assume that the movie was indeed targeted towards this specific audience in order to disrupt the conception of western social order (Beaumont-Thomas, 2014). To support my claim, I shall first provide a brief conception of Rancière’s “distribution of the sensible”. Then I shall turn to the film techniques used by Anderson to bring this concept to life in TGBH.