If you’re going to the Light House Cinema in Smithfield for Wes Anderson’s new film this week, or you’re simply in the vicinity and love film and design, check out the mini exhibition in the cinema’s cafe.
On show are some of the props created for The Grand Budapest Hotel by local designer Annie Atkins.
As its lead graphic designer, Annie worked with director Anderson and his production designer Adam Stockhausen to create all the graphic elements required to conjure up the hotel and an imaginary country in Mitteleuropa between the two World Wars: the State of Zubrowka.
Annie’s art department designed the banknotes, book covers, flags, letterheads, passports, postage stamps, pastry boxes, perfume bottles, prison escape maps, menus, shopping bags, wills, bloodied telegrams and police reports…
In another life, you could imagine her working away on the Escape Committee in Stalag Luft III, turning out vast quantities of false passports, fake uniforms, maps, wooden horses and so on for The Great Escape.
But that’s just the start of it. Besides the more obvious props such as the ones on display in the Light House since yesterday, her team looked after the design of everything from the hotel’s signage and carpets to the publicity poster for the film itself.
I’m half blind and rough-and-ready in the photography department, so apologies that my pics of some of the exhibits don’t do full justice…
Wes Anderson is notoriously meticulous about his palettes and the visual details of his films, which means many of the objects are a sort of cross between the (now) retro style of the 1930s in the fictitious country, and Anderson’s own aesthetics – a kind of half-way house between postmodern and pop art.
There is something mindboggling about seeing these physical objects (or possibly duplicate copies of them) that were in a film you’ve just seen. All that fine detail; all that thought and labour embodied in these fleeting objects that are sometimes hardly caught on camera.
Writing novels, by comparison, is a doddle. You just chuck in a quick line or two about what a prop or carpet is supposed to look like – leave it to the reader’s imagination to fill in the details.
But those things in the glass exhibition cases in the cinema’s café are physical, handcrafted things. And these are the finished, final object – you tend to forget all the other versions that never made it onto the set.
In a sense many of the tinier details are for fans to freezeframe for decades to come; for fans to argue over whether the banknotes look too crude or whether currency in that part of the world did in fact look like that back then.
We finish looking at the exhibits. A couple standing beside us are about to have a fight over whether the handwriting style on one document was “natural enough” or “too stylish – more like a calligrapher”.
The little exhibition is brilliant. As for the film itself, that’s another story. It’s a joy. A friend called it “a kind of children’s book for adults”. That’s a great compliment.
Catch the exhibition in Smithfield while you can – it’s not every day that you get a free look at Oscar-quality stuff in your own neighbourhood.
- Check out Annie Atkins’s other art department credits on IMDB.com, from The Tudors to Vikings
- Follow her on the Twitter machine @AnnieAtkins
- View the film’s official trailer on YouTube
- You too can film in Zubrowka! Visit the Zubrowka Film Commission’s website
- Enroll in class in the Academie Zubrowka
- You’re a font junkie? Seems they used Archer bold in this latest film
- How to make żubrówka – it’s a bison-grass vodka