The next installment in our Film Fridays series comes from Andy Mehigan… Oh, and just a reminder, the post with the most likes/comments on Facebook, shares on Twitter, and clicks in general wins its writer a little prize.

*****

The success of a message is in its effect, not its content.

Don’t read the message at the top of this page.

This little thought popped into my head as I read a couple of very grumpy reviews, criticising what I thought was one of the best films of 2014, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

A brief synopsis: a flamingo-pink-wedding-cake hotel, a bisexual concierge with a penchant for ancient women and a lobby boy called Zero, all set in the 1930s against the backdrop of World War. They try to find a painting that’s been nicked from one of Gustave H’s female ‘clients’ and a story unfolds…

Generally the film was well rated, but it was the unimpressed critics that caught my attention. They accused director Wes Anderson of tragically overlooking the war his film had been set in. They suggested that he had fallen for the style over substance trap and, for all his entertaining flourishes, had missed the point entirely. The irony of these reviews was too obvious to ignore.

The entire success of this film comes from how it constantly lobs up potentially serious moments and then totally ignores them. The lobby boy’s refugee past, the concierge who sleeps with his elderly customers and the march of European fascism being just a few. These are all so blatantly ‘brushed under the carpet’ that in reality it becomes impossible not to notice them. I just love the cynicism, as every romantic poem is cut short and every moving moment interrupted. I couldn’t help but conclude that Anderson was ironically trying to say, ‘give up the pretence’.

He simply paints the foreground bright pink and allows us to see the contrast for ourselves. It’s brilliant and it got me thinking. Do we ever construct ‘pink hotels’ in our own lives that in the end just highlight what they’re trying to hide? With more and more stories of charitable figureheads being found out to have dark secrets, I’d suggest it’s a very present problem. But not just for those in the news: for all of us.

It’s an amazing ability we have, to create a superficial world, in which we feel safe, accepted and excused, as we successfully distract people from the real problems. Whether that’s a good status at work to hide family issues, or a public personality that disguises crushing insecurity, there’s always something we’re trying to hide.  

I just wonder whether we’re all putting off the inevitable, when those around us stop falling for this ‘critic’s irony’ and start seeing what lies beneath. Maybe it’s time to honestly admit them as problems and look for a way to genuinely change?

This idea reminded me of Isaiah 6 when a prideful man is exposed to God’s utter perfection and is permanently humbled. Until then he had deemed himself ‘good enough’ when compared to other, more sinful men and women. But up against God’s true holiness he (and we) had nowhere to hide. I’ll let you read the rest.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a great film, so please see it if you get the chance to. It’s utterly hilarious, brilliantly shot and just ingeniously clever at every turn. But try not to get distracted by the details, have a look at what’s behind them.