Creating a trademark is never an easy job. Film directors struggle to create a unique style, and while many of them tend to imitate, few directors succeeded to create their very own method of filmmaking. Wes Anderson is on that list. He’s one of the few directors who are still capable of producing unique films. Take a random shot from any of his movies and you’ll find yourself saying ‘this is a Wes Anderson movie’ even if you haven’t seen it.
The key elements of a Wes Anderson film:
The first thing you notice while watching a Wes Anderson movie is the highly stylized visuals, in today’s terms every scene in his movies looks instagrammed. He uses the same tools to create his unique textures; and though these textures wildly vary from one movie to another, they share the same spirit. He paints the scenes with the same brush strokes using different colors and materials. Every shot in a Wes Anderson movie is a work of art, so rich and full of incredible details, vibrant saturated colors and unusual costumes. The aesthetics make you want to have every shot framed and hanged on your wall. His attention to detail in never distracting, it doesn’t give you the feeling that he’s focusing on the visuals to gain more viewership. On the contrary, it heightens the experience, it gives the movie more uniqueness and it makes it more pleasurable, and his style is getting better. For example, while you may question the visual exaggeration in his previous movies, in “Moonrise Kingdom” the visuals reached a whole new level of credibility. They gave the movie a never-seen-before emotional depth, and with the all the craziness of the production design it felt real and sincere and the frames were populated by real but oddly overdressed people. The clothes used in his movies are also effective because they create a contrast between the characters and the background creating a vivacious picturesque.
The camera work:
This exquisite production design needs to be shot eloquently. Anderson tends to tell his stories in a linear way, yet the pace is never linear. With a full exploitation of his cameras, the linearity of his movies is oftenly altered with the insertion of extensive close ups, zooming (in and out) and quick sub-plots shot with unconventional camera angles. It’s perfectly fine for him to shoot the character perpendicularly from above or below as long as it serves the story. His trademarks include the take/double take technique, where he shows a character doing something; he suddenly pans to another character in a particular situation and then pans back to the first one using a handled camera. Talking about the characters, there’s at least one shot for one character facing toward the screen and standing still with usually people reacting in the background but the character itself is usually emotionless.
One of the very unique features of his films is the way he introduces us to his characters. In a single shot he shows us all of them interacting together, he captures their movements and their behaviors with the use of some amazing cinematography like in the stunning opening sequence of “Moonrise Kingdom” or the inside the ship scene in “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” . It’s all about shooting the exaggerated performances of the characters with exaggerated camera angles. All this exaggeration gives his movies a sense of theatricality, but because Wes Anderson is a master filmmaker, the scenes remain cinematic. Not to mention the aesthetically impressive wide-shots .He usually ends his movies with a slow-motion shot.
A bright 15-year-old whose reason for living is his attendance at a private school where he’s not doing well in any of his classes but where he’s the king of extracurricular activities, an oceanographer assembles a crew (that includes a man who may or may not be his son) for an expedition to hunt down a mysterious shark that ate his partner, Three drug addict brothers suffering from depression, a fox that wants to be responsible and two young lovers who create their own drama by escaping together. These are some samples of Wes Anderson’s characters. They’re weird, satirical, eccentric and neurotic. Their performances end up theatrical but never implausible. They seem to be experimenting their acting abilities and enjoying themselves. There are no worries to overact in front of Wes Anderson cameras, because the actors know that he’s orchestrating them with the highest possible craftsmanship.
Other than the visual aspect, his movies are noticeable with their quick quirky dialogue. No long monologues, no unnecessary lines and no useless situations. Anderson tells his stories, usually in 90 min, with no complications. He writes characters and throws them into exaggerated and unconventional situations allowing them lose themselves in the role. Their lines are witty and poignant. Here are some samples:
From ‘The life Aquatic’:
“This bull dyke’s got something against us…
I don’t think she’s a lesbian. She’s pregnant.”
“I’ll show you the door..
I’ll just go back out the window.”
And from ‘Moonrise Kingdom’:
“Walt, where the hell are you?
Right here. Why are you cursing at me?
Does it concern you that your daughter’s just run away from home?
That’s a loaded question.
Come down and read this!”
Wes Anderson is also faithful to his actors. He frequently casts the same people like Bill Murray who almost starred in all his movies playing different eccentric characters. In the end Wes Anderson’s mind is a fertile environment, a place where highly imaginative stories are flawlessly crafted. He writes his stories while composing the scenes in his head. He never repeats himself; he repeats his techniques to create completely different and unique films. Whether you liked the story or not, you’ll end up enchanted, happy and lively.