Wes Anderson’s Use of Lighting Techniques in The Grand Budapest Hotel

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About this sample


Words: 1094 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Words: 1094|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is one of the most unusual and memorable films people have ever watched. Wes Anderson showed the audience an irreplaceable example of a great movie. Here everyone can see the use of different techniques that help the viewer to feel the whole atmosphere of the film. Furthermore, this film is popular due to the unusual using of lighting techniques in it. Lighting is the most important part of filmmaking. Any scene can be lit in many different ways, each of which will create its own mood and impression from the picture. Light can create an image of the character, hide its flaws and cause a storm of emotions in the viewer. A common fact is that in this movie the lighting techniques are key techniques that help the story to develop and to attach a great importance to the details. Moreover, viewers are like in a different world while watching this movie. Wes Anderson accomplishes the highest level in the reflection of the emotions of the main characters, their personalities and their mental state with the different lighting techniques throughout the film. The light features of the film “The Grand Budapest Hotel” occupy a special place in the field of cinema, so they cannot be left without special attention.

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The most romantic episode in the film and the first one which will be analyzed here is the close up shot of Agatha. Besides, it is also the most beautiful shot in the film. Many colorful lights rotating in the background and creating the effect of the backlighting is amazing. Surely, this technique was done for a specific reason. Using these lights in the background, Anderson wants to show the essence of Agatha. It is obvious that she is the most unusual character in this film. A birthmark in the shape of Mexico on her face proves it. Therefore, these multi-colored lights emphasize her versatility, unique and exclusive. Moreover, this scene reflects the love between Zero and Agatha. It reflects very strong, sincere and real feelings. How do we understand the whole sincerity of this relationship between them? This is what the Agatha’s eyes tell us. Anderson pays great attention to her eyes. The light that falls on her emphasizes not only her deep blue eyes, but also her honesty and innocence. Anderson seemed to want us to feel the same way that Zero feels to Agatha. He wanted the audience to fall in love with her. It can be said with confidence that he did it great.

The second scene to talk about is the most mysterious and deepest in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” It is the episode when the author and Zero Mustafa have dinner together. Old Zero begins to tell his story, and at this moment, the following changes can be observed: the soft light changes to a hard one, and the front lighting changes to the backlighting. With the use of these light techniques, this scene acquires a huge meaning. Firstly, it reveals to the audience another image of Zero. The combination of hard light and backlighting completely breaks viewer’s first impression of his character. At first glance, he seemed an indifferent and a rich old man. To say the truth, he was not interested at all. However, as was mentioned before, the scene during the dinner completely changes the first opinion about this person. The combination of hard and backlight completely breaks the image of his character. Now there is a very mysterious man who has lived a long life and has a great experience behind him. Secondly, starting from this episode we will find out who Gustave is. Key light, fill light and back light – all of these lighting aspects create a special atmosphere that makes the audience interested in Mustafa’s upcoming story about Gustave. Accordingly, Anderson tries to achieve two goals with the using of lighting techniques in this episode. He shows the audience not only the real identity of Zero Mustafa, but also Gustave. The hard light and the backlighting were used successfully, and it helped the audience to feel the meaning hidden here.

Finally, lighting techniques also had an important role in the most touching scene of the film 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' which is the episode of the dinner of Zero Mustafa and the author in the restaurant when Zero begins to tell the author about Agatha, the love of his life. At the beginning of the episode, you can see these two men sitting opposite each other in a spacious and bright restaurant. However, the intensity of the illumination falls at one moment, and it becomes sharply darker. Here again the change of soft light to hard can be observed. Using this method here, Wes Anderson perfectly reflects the emotional state of the main character. Changing the illumination in a restaurant is a change in the mood of the Zero from joyful to sad. This is a transition from pleasant memories of Gustave to painful memories over losing Agatha. Then, under the influence of the key light, the viewer sees Zero’s face in tears. Wes Anderson, directing the key light on the half of main character’s face, shows his sincere emotions. Using this technique here is very appropriate and effective way to allow the audience to get to know Zero Mustafa even closer. At this moment, it becomes clear that he is not just a rich and indifferent old man. He is an ordinary person like all people, and he has real emotions. Using key lighting and changing the lighting from soft to hard, Anderson wanted to show how Mustafa feels about Agatha. Certainly, he did it at the highest level.

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“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a great comedy by Wes Anderson with a whole range of unusual techniques, not just lighting ones. However, only the lighting techniques help Anderson fully convey his ideas and messages. In the first case, this is the uniqueness of Agatha's character and her sincere love with Zero. In a situation with old Zero, Anderson uses lighting techniques to reflect Zero’s emotional associations with different moments in his story or to make the atmosphere of the movie more mysterious. In addition, this film is famous not only for non-standard use of various techniques. It also contains a huge instructive meaning: there is a real devotion in life, and a friend will always come to your defense, even if it is a direct threat to his life. 


  • Adorama Learning Center. (2018). Basic Cinematography Lighting. Retrieved from
  • Leeds, D. (2017). ). Cinematic Techniques of “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. Retrieved from
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Wes Anderson’s Use Of Lighting Techniques In The Grand Budapest Hotel. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 14, 2024, from
“Wes Anderson’s Use Of Lighting Techniques In The Grand Budapest Hotel.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021,
Wes Anderson’s Use Of Lighting Techniques In The Grand Budapest Hotel. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 Apr. 2024].
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