A (Mostly) Realistic Response to Fascism in “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel

By Kveten Nerudova

I found a new character flaw a few weeks ago. I found that I liked Wes Anderson movies.

I’m the kid of Czech immigrants, one of the lands Zubrowka was based on. And the history of our country, and that of Poland and Germany, are ones I kept in mind while I watched the movie. Some of the places felt like exaggerations of places I had been to. It was hard not to think about it when enjoying the movie.

The invasion of Zubrowka was first noticed in a newspaper. Mentioned as an aside, something the esteemed hotel and eccentric Monsieur Gustave could not care about. Not a glance at it as he went to pay his respects to his dear, lost fling. His first encounter with the fascists was on the train. He defended Zero from them, and was saved by one of the “nice” fascists. The fascists advance, and take the whole country later. 

They come and serve the bidding of the terrible Dmitri, a fascist himself. Gustave goes to a jail, with terrible walls, cold and desolate. They come back to a fascist infested hotel, the invasion now on their steps and in their hotel rooms. In the end, Monsieur Gustave wins his inheritance, the fascists on his side. Until the scene where he fights them once again over Zero’s papers. This time fatally. 

In Czechoslovakia the Nazis came in two steps. First they came for the Sudetenland, and we didn’t know until it happened. For the countries negotiating, it was an aside in the newspaper. We weren’t included in the discussions. The Nazis came first for that, and stopped for a time. I’m sure some Monsieur Gustaves were able to travel during that time to some mining town in the mountains like Lutz. Perhaps a town like Jáchymov. And I’m more than sure marginalized people, such as Zero, were being rounded up. And at first the Gustaves probably got away with protecting their Zero, by befriending the nice nazi. Because the nice nazi would be okay with Monsuier Gustave, upstanding, not quite aryan hotel worker.

But there were a thousand Dmitris. Fascists waiting to exact their revenge on those who they thought wronged them, or those who they simply hated. And the state would of course be their tool to exact their aims. 

And the Grand Hotels would open their doors to the fascists, open resistance would not come for some time. Not the resistance that would make it to the history books at least. The kolaboranti (collaborators) would be everywhere. 

And Monsiuer Gustave too would be killed for not being quite aryan, and for associating with Zero not too long after. 

What’s not realistic is the Hotel being given to Monsuier Gustave, and then to Zero. That would be too right, that would be too good. That wouldn’t be real life. 

Wes Anderson weaves a wonderful movie and treats this topic with some care. But the Nazis were never that nice, and many Czechs and Poles were all too happy to collaborate for Monsieur Gustave and Zero to ever get their hands on that hotel. It would’ve belonged to some mid-ranking Nazi. And maybe it would have made its way into the hands of somebody like Karl Schwarzenberg. 

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