Pentlow Film Club – January 2015

Film ReelAfter a very small audience as we got tangled up with Christmas in December, we were full house for this month’s film, The Grand Budapest Hotel,with the largest audience we have had so far. Quite a few of the people who came had already seen it, but wanted to see it again, and seemed to enjoy it as much as they had the first time round. The Independent listed it as one of the two best comedies of 2014, but, seeing it for the second time, I saw it less as a comedy than as an elegy, for a Europe that no longer exists, and perhaps was never more than a dream.

The intrusion of armed forces on to the train in the film, and the violence beneath the surface that it represented, war and all its brutality, shifting political alliances, reminded me of a train journey I took on my honeymoon, from Vienna to Budapest where, on the border between Hungary and Austria we waited for several hours while the army searched every single passenger from boots to sandwiches looking for heaven knows what, and not politely either, in 1968. We, as British, were apparently exempt, but it made clear how fragile was our freedom. The film shows that dark side for so many underlying the icing on the cake for the wealthy few who could stay in confections like the Grand Budapest Hotel. Perhaps the film was about memory, and how it creates a past which exists only in our own minds, by the force of personality of a concierge who is shot in the end for no particular reason, like most victims of war.

It is beautifully shot, in another sense, like a series of baroque cakes, made by Mendel but with weapons hidden inside them. There is no happy ending, only crumbs.

Do come next time, on 20 February, to a much more peaceful film.

Isobel Clark

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