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Wes Anderson: Precision, Style, and Dysfunction

Written by Andres Sanchez, LFS Contributor

Wes Anderson's unique style of film-making stands out for a variety of reasons. Most notably–the incredible amount of visual symmetry the director is able to achieve in each of his carefully structured scenes. Using a wide-angle lens and incorporating an array of shapes, patterns, and vibrant colors, Anderson manages to combine perfectly symmetrical shots with in-depth plots and characters and embeds them into complex micro-worlds.

In these micro-worlds, his characters are often confronted with similar challenges including social nonconformity, family dysfunction, loss of innocence, the struggle of obtaining one's first love, and the tragic passing of someone dear. All the classic hallmarks of your typical "coming of age" story, though his extraordinary attention to detail in every aspect is what makes his movies so easily distinguishable from the rest. Not to mention- they also seem to represent the filmmaker on a deeply personal level, reflecting his own life and personality.

Max Fischer, Rushmore (1998)

Let's examine Max Fischer, the main character in the movie Rushmore. He is a socially awkward outcast hellbent on leaving his mark on the mundane Rushmore Academy, regardless of the consequences. Along the way, he is faced with heartbreak, betrayal, and the obstacle of having to overcome an increasing amount of seemingly insurmountable adversity.

We see many of the same recurring themes in a number of his other works like The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. His use of direct dialogue and quirky, chaotic humor provides his films with as much substance as it does style. This gives his characters a distinctive tone as can be seen in this excerpt from the screenplay for Moonrise Kingdom in a letter exchange between central characters Sam and Suzy, two young and rebellious kindred spirits:


Sam stands in pajamas staring blankly, eyes wide, at a dog house in flames next to a rusty swing-set. A dachshund sits next to him, also watching. Mrs. Billingsley comes running out of the house with a fire extinguisher.

SAM (V.O.):

Dear Suzy, I accidentally built a fire while I was sleepwalking. I have no memory of this, but my foster parents think I am lying. Unfortunately, it is --

Suzy stands in the kitchen looking out through a pane of glass with a hole smashed in the middle of it. Mrs. Bishop is next to her with her hair hanging over the sink while the two of them carefully pick bits of glass out of it. '

Or this line from The Royal Tenenbaums-


I don't think you're an asshole Royal, I just think you're kind of a son of a bitch.


Well, I really appreciate that.


Anderson's ability to present these absurd situations in such a calm and genuinely funny way is nothing short of creative genius and it is perhaps one of his strongest attributes as a director. The melancholic components and deadpan delivery with complete pandemonium occurring simultaneously provides an interesting contrast that is simply captivating to watch.

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