The Wonderful World of Wes Anderson - Hanifa Izzatillaeva, Townley Grammar School

Photo inspired by the style of Wes Anderson <i>(Image: Alexander Kagan</i>
Photo inspired by the style of Wes Anderson (Image: Alexander Kagan

Many of you will be highly familiar with the distinctive style of Wes Anderson’s movies. Whether it’s the colour palette or dialogue, the movies are easily identifiable as the works of the esteemed director. However, what is it that truly makes his films so recognisable?

Born on May 1st 1969, Wesley Wales Anderson is an American filmmaker known for his unique style and distinguishable movies. He has directed and co-written many popular films such as The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), Fantastic Mr Fox (2009) and The Darjeeling Limited (2007).  He is known for the aberrant and fantastical style of his movies, receiving both praise and criticism for the way he chooses to present his films.

There are several tell-tale characteristics of Anderson’s work. One of the main techniques prevalent in his films is the use of symmetry – Anderson’s balanced framing creates a sense of comfort and order throughout. He also regularly utilises slow motion shots, perfectly capturing the essence of pivotal cinematic moments and evoking a sense of nostalgia. Some distinctive camerawork traits of his films are long, lateral tracking shots where the camera follows a character’s movements, usually on a dolly, for an extended period of time. In addition, whip pans, where the fast panning of a camera creates a horizontal blur, are common. Anderson also makes use of carefully arranged flat lays, a bird’s eye view on an array of intricately laid out objects, throughout his movies.  The colour palette of Anderson’s works set them apart from most other movies. His use of vividly saturated colours and narrow palette is a characteristic that immediately makes you think his name and adds to the fantasy and surrealism of his movies.

When watching a Wes Anderson film, you may pick up on how the background has an artificial, two dimensional sense to it. This is due to what American film theorist David Bordwell describes as planimetric composition. Planimetric composition is when the camera is perpendicular to elements of the scene, presenting these as flat planes relative to the camera. Characters will typically move horizontally or vertically to maintain this imagery. Brodwell also explains compass point editing, where one planimetric shot is followed by a reverse planimetric shot, another idea pervasive within the style of Anderson. This use of planimetric composition creates a deadpan comic quality.

Dialogue within a Wes Anderson movie is also quite dry and inexpressive. Characters tend to have straight faced reactions and a humourless delivery of lines, often with pauses between responses. This adds to the comedy as the unrealism and nonchalance enhance the hilarity of the situation. A common factor across Anderson’s movies is the actors within them. There are several reoccurring actors that he works with: familiar faces such as Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Adrien Brody and Tilda Swinton. They are a contributing factor to the consistency and recognisability of the films.

Overall, the most notable quality of Wes Anderson’s movies is the non-naturalistic style, the all-encompassing reason for his aforementioned characteristics. Anderson is telling a story, and wants his audience to know he is telling a story. Rather than trying to make the events seem real, he highlights their surrealism through his use of colour, dialogue and camera work. His films have shaky camera shots that make you aware that there is a camera filming them, Moonrise Kingdom has a narrator that speaks directly to the camera, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a story within a story, Rushmore has curtains which open and close in the style of a play. The audience is made aware throughout that they are watching a movie. This brings together Anderson’s style of film, where he explores adult concepts in a whimsical, childlike way, and ultimately creates what is such a unique and trademark cinematography.