Secret Cinema: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Reviewer's Rating

If you are a movie nut, like myself, then no doubt you’ve shared a similar daydream: to enter into a beloved cinematic world and become a part of the atmosphere and the adventure. A certain glamour and luxury of days gone by that are too lavish for the times (and the student budget) but everyone secretly wishes to take part in.  Well Secret Cinema offers you a chance for just that and they chose a perfect film of a world gone by for it: Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.  The film takes place in a luxurious grand hotel of the 1930s in fictional Zubrowka and Secret Cinema does its best to transport you there.

The adventure starts days earlier with emails instructing you on how to dress, what to bring and where to meet.  After reaching the meeting point, and waiting longer than the scheduled check in time, we approached a building reimagined as the Grand Budapest Hotel.  The façade of the building was actually one of my favorite parts as it captured so perfectly the style of the film:  slightly animated, with falling snow and silhouettes moving behind curtains as though we truly were entering a real hotel.  Ushered in, a concierge welcomed me back as a regular and beloved guest.

Helpful staff roamed around in bellhop uniforms, costumed actors reimagined themselves as the cast, and we were released to explore the many floors of the grand hotel.  A place of note: be sure to check out the servants’ quarters where you will meet lovely gentleman with an expertise in drinks. With delicious specialty drinks and authentic food, a certain festive air was established.

However, the illusion fell short of completion.  The uneven floors and concrete walls could not fully hide that this was not a luxurious hotel and as a person going into the experience having already seen the film, I was able to recognize discrepancies between the actors and the script that left immersion into the movie falling flat as well. Additionally, watching the movie in a cold, empty room on uncomfortable chairs was not my idea of 1930s luxury.  When the actors were called upon to perform out scenes they truly were engaging and funny.  However, as a theatrical experience it felt sparse.  There were too few of these performances and so little direction as to how to find them that odds are you missed them anyway.  While this makes for a fantastic concept and a truly entertaining night out, it falls short of its potential as a theatrical immersion into a cinematic world.