Geography of ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’

ARTS

An Oscar-winning art director discusses how he designed an imaginary hotel in the fictional country of Zubrowka. (Nat Geo News)

What style of hotel would you build in your own fictional country?

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

Discussion Ideas

  • Art director Adam Stockhausen just brought home his first Academy Award, for production design on Wes Anderson’s latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. What is a art director?
    • An art director or production designer is responsible for the overall visual appearance of a film. Production designers frequently work with lighting, costume, and special effects departments. They may also help scout locations for films and work to develop coherent graphics and set designs. In addition to film, art directors are important parts of the advertising, publishing, and video game industries.

 

  • Read the Nat Geo News article and watch the video on creating the title “character” of The Grand Budapest Hotel. (Listen to director Wes Anderson talk about creating the hotel’s unique geography at about 2:38.) How did Stockhausen and producers of the film do very real research for their very fictional hotel?
    • They studied archive photographs real hotels that were popular in Central Europe during the early 20th century (the setting of the film).
    • They visited Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic, particularly regions with distinctive landscapes they wanted to represent in the film.
    • They studied architecture of the period—not just hotels, but retail businesses, warehouses, department stores, office buildings, museums, train stations, and even a prison!

 

  • Create your own “grand hotel.” Work with a team, and think like a writer, director, producer, or production designer. You’re inventing an entire cultural geography.
    • Choose a location. The Grand Budapest Hotel is set in the fictional Central European country of Zubrowka. Where is your hotel?
    • Choose a clientele. At the Grand Budapest Hotel, a funicular (look it up!) transports guests to the elite hotel, overlooking the valley below. Who is visiting your hotel? Why are they visiting? How much are they paying? How are they dressed?
      • Think about how the economic setting influences the production design of a film. How might the hotel be designed differently if the film was set:
        • in a developing country?
        • in a society segregated by gender or race?
        • at a family resort?
        • at a hotel for busy business travelers?
    • Choose a time period. The Grand Budapest Hotel actually has two time periods—the 1930s and the 1960s. When would your film be set?
      • Think about how a time period influences the production design of a film. Most of The Grand Budapest Hotel is set during the 1930s, just prior to World War II, when (to put it mildly) Central Europe would experience political and social unrest. How would the film be different if it was set:
        • 15 years earlier, when most of Central Europe was engaged in World War I?
        • 15 years later, when most of Central Europe was living behind the Iron Curtain?

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Nat Geo: Oscar-Winning Art Director on Creating the Grand Budapest Hotel

Nat Geo: Tourism collection

Art Directors Guild: What is an art director?

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