What’s up with Wes Anderson?

The Messenger’s favorite mediocre media analyst spills on what makes Wes Anderson’s style so unique to him.


Art by Ava Fimmano

Wes Anderson is an iconic director who has amassed notable recognition for a wide variety of films from serious commentaries on family and mortality such as Fantastic Mr. Fox to tempestuous action and adventure movies like the Grand Budapest Hotel. Along with this, he is known for his incredible work on films such as Moonrise Kingdom, The Life Aquatic, and his newest The French Dispatch. Initially watching these films, the similarities may not be obvious, but his uniquely Anderson cut-and-dry style of dialogue and the striking symmetry and color coordination of his shots, make his work recognizable from a mile away- to a trained eye. 

In Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson makes use of the camera in such a way that every shot feels intentional, almost as if the viewer is being taken through an art museum. While most directors want to make the audience feel as though they are experiencing everything along with the characters, Fantastic Mr. Fox makes the audience feel like they are watching a movie. While some directors aim to make the audience feel like they are experiencing the events of a movie alongside its characters, Anderson makes the choice to have the camera always turn in 90 degree increments, which makes his films almost appear flat. This results in the audience feeling as though they are simply along for whatever wild ride they are being taken on, which has its own unique charm to it.  

But what makes his style of cinematography so uniquely his? “He has many of his actors break the 4th Wall – addressing the audience, or nearly breaking the 4th Wall. When you use this technique, strategically and intelligently, you draw the audience in ways they don’t consciously register at first,“said Mr. Pugh, Garfield’s resident videography teacher.

 Anderson’s films also frequently utilize linguistics as a storytelling tool. In Fantastic Mr. Fox, humans with speaking roles speak in a British accent, while the animals seem to have some sort of North American accent. In movies that contain both animals and humans with speaking roles, there is a sort of confusion that the audience can feel in the struggle to not equate them to each other. Anderson intentionally uses the subtle differences in linguistics as a tool of separation between the humans and the “wild animals”. This is not the only time he has used this technique. In Isle of Dogs, all of the humans speak Japanese while the dogs not only speak English, but also have some sort of North American accent. 

 His newest film, The French Dispatch, appears to follow the key patterns of a classic Anderson film just from the trailer. “There could be 25 years between his films, yet they all reflect their own created time and space, regardless of the year(s) in which they were, and are, produced.” Pugh said. “I can’t forget the quirky, seemingly emotionally repressed characterizations of subjects who should otherwise be complete train wrecks in normal life.

Speaking of characters and the people who play them, Anderson makes a conscious choice, like many directors, to have a cast of actors that he frequently works with. Some of Anderson’s notable favorites include stars like Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schwartzman. The French Dispatch follows this trend, but with some advancements.“With The French Dispatch, the casting is much more diverse in terms of actors known for far different roles and works in comparison to his other works,” Pugh said. In The French Dispatch, you can expect not only classics like Owen Wilson (who has starred in all but two of Anderson’s films) but also soon-to-be classics like Timothée Chalamet.

“I think you’ve still got lightning in you,” Suzy Bishop said, a character from Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. At first glance, this quote would appear to be something a supporting character would say to cheer on the main character in a moment of doubt. Instead, because Wes Anderson is Wes Anderson, a quirky auteur this quote is delivered more as a statement of fact because the main character, 12 year-old Sam Shakusky, had actually been struck by lightning while fleeing a crazed troop of boy scouts during a storm after being married by a troop leader and gifted $75 in nickels. And what could be more Anderson than that matter-of-fact, it-is-what-it-is charm?