Exploring Soundtracks: The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Today we’ll be once again looking at the soundtrack for another Wes Anderson film. This one, his eighth.

Last time, we looked at the score for “Moonrise Kingdom”, which was composed by Alexandre Desplat, and featured more classical music than any previous Wes Anderson film. It seems he kept this inclination for “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. Once again, we’ll get no Kinks songs, and none from the Rolling Stones, either. Here, Anderson puts his more refined tastes forward, drawing from both classical as well as Russian folk music.

But before we get too much into the soundtrack itself, let’s do a quick rundown of the synopsis.

Synopsis

The film keeps its setting central throughout the film. Set in the 1930’s, the Grand Budapest Hotel is a popular European ski resort. The story follows its concierge, Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) who takes care of the needs of all of his guests. This includes, however, satisfying the sexual needs of some of the elderly women guests. And when one of his lovers turns up mysteriously dead, Gustave finds himself the recipient of a priceless painting, and the prime suspect of her murder.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

As with the last few of Wes Anderson’s films we’ve discussed, the soundtrack for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” was composed by Alexandre Desplat. While the songs included are all classical pieces, they still manage to convey Anderson’s characteristic whimsy and charm. Throughout the thirty-two tracks, Desplat uses a combination of orchestral arrangements, keyboards, and drones to carry out variations of several melodic themes.

Additional notes of whimsy can be heard in tracks such as “A Dash of Salt (Ludwig’s Theme)”. In the scene where this plays, M. Gustave is locked away in prison. After befriending his cellmates, they begin digging their way out of their cell using tools smuggled in. This bouncy tune plays during the night as they dig and scrape at the cell floor, accompanied by percussive hand claps that add a dash of comedic effect (along with the salt).

Another commendable feature of Desplat’s compositions is their ability to balance light and dark. In “The Cold-Blooded Murder of Deputy Vilmos Kovacs”, a twangy, rhythmic guitar is paired with droning keyboards. This has the effect of simultaneously foreshadowing the coming murder, as well as bringing an air of humor to the nervous and paranoid Kovacs (played by Jeff Goldblum).

Final Thoughts

Overall, I found the soundtrack to “The Grand Budapest Hotel” charming, fanciful, and quaint. To be honest, the music pulls a good deal of weight in keeping the sense of humor in the film alive. Additionally, the pacing of each scene matches up splendidly with the tempo from track to track, which propels the story on when it needs to.

One thing I did notice was that the music keeps up throughout almost the entire film. This makes the scenes when it cuts out much more powerful, drawing the viewer’s attention in further. The collection of whimsical pieces in this soundtrack gives “The Grand Budapest Hotel” the romantic, childlike charm that is characteristic of an Anderson film.

Well, that about wraps up our discussion of “The Grand Budapest Hotel”‘s original soundtrack. We’ve only got a few more soundtracks left to discuss in Anderson’s filmography, so stayed tuned or be patient. Whichever you may prefer.

Track List

1. s’Rothe-Zäuerli – Öse Schuppel
2. The Alpine Sudetenwaltz
3. Mr. Moustafa
4. Overture: M. Gustave H
5. A Prayer for Madame D
6. The New Lobby Boy
7. Concerto for Lute and Plucked Strings I. Moderato – Siegfried Behrend & DZO Chamber Orchestra
8. Daylight Express to Lutz
9. Schloss Lutz Overture
10. The Family Desgoffe und Taxis
11. Last Will and Testament
12. Up the Stairs/Down the Hall
13. Night Train to Nebelsbad
14. The Lutz Police Militia
15. Check Point 19 Criminal Internment Camp Overture
16. The Linden Tree – Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra, Vitaly Gnutov

17. J.G. Jopling, Private Inquiry Agent
18. A Dash of Salt (Ludwig’s Theme)
19. The Cold-Blooded Murder of Deputy Vilmos Kovacs
20. Escape Concerto
21. The War (Zero’s Theme)
22. No Safe-House
23. The Society of the Crossed Keys
24. M. Ivan
25. Lot 117
26. Third Class Carriage
27. Canto at Gabelmeister’s Peak
28. A Troops Barracks (Requiem for the Grand Budapest)
29. Cleared of All Charges
30. The Mystical Union
31. Kamarinskaya – Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra, Vitaly Gnutov
32. Traditional Arrangement: Moonshine

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