By Trevor Jones
If you are familiar with me, you probably know that I have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with Wes Anderson.
But my obsession is justified, as Anderson has proved to become one of the most acclaimed writer/directors in Hollywood. Ever since the 90s, when he released cult indie classics such as Rushmore and Bottle Rocket, Anderson has been perfecting his signature craft as his most recent film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, snagged four out of the nine Oscar nominations it received.
Personally, I think the cinematography in Wes Anderson’s films is the most distinct feature of his trademarked style. Anderson and his go-to cinematographer, Robert D. Yeoman, (DP on every Anderson feature-film except Fantastic Mr. Fox), have an arsenal of techniques used in each film. Their most popular style is the use of a flat composition, meaning that every subject is directly in front of the camera, so the use of awkward camera angles in a Wes Anderson film is almost nonexistent. The use of flat composition in the cinematography contributes to the use of symmetry and rule of thirds. There are literally hundreds of examples of these techniques in Anderson’s films, but I don’t want to sift through Netflix taking screenshots for hours. Another signature style of Anderson/Yeoman is the use of tracking shots, a method that involves mounting the camera on a dolly (a device used in filmmaking/television that allows camera to produce smooth, horizontal movement). If you pay attention, you can notice that these techniques have been more incorporated into Anderson’s work throughout his career (watch a clip from Rushmore and then compare it to The Grand Budapest Hotel. You will see the difference).
Still from Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Coloring films is one of the most important processes that give a film its unique aesthetic (ie green tones in The Matrix). Wes Anderson makes excellent use of this aspect of film as many of his projects rely on color grading to provide their distinct aura. For example, tones of pink, purple, and red are present in almost every shot in The Grand Budapest Hotel, and in Moonrise Kingdom, the majority of the film is washed in a warm yellow color palette that reminds you of the hues of autumn. Anderson’s attention to color is also present the brilliant production designs, as almost every prop and costume matches with the hue of the film. The Grand Budapest Hotel is full of props and costumes that beautifully coexist in the film’s palette.
Stills from The Grand Budapest Hotel (2013)
Throughout Anderson’s career, he has managed to attract many of the same excellent actors to his films. Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston, Owen and Luke Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, and Willem Dafoe have all starred in several Anderson projects. And it seems that Anderson is still adding to his roster adding actors to his inventory, as Edward Norton and Tilda Swinton, both actors in Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel, are going to star in his anticipated stop-motion film Isle of Dogs.
Hopefully I have informed you of Wes Anderson’s signature craft through this small guide. If you are a cinephile like me, I encourage you to watch all of Anderson’s films to see how brilliant the man really is.