It’s hard to imagine skating through the eclectic stop-motion universe of Fantastic Mr. Fox, joining Suzy and Sam on their love-fueled pursuit in Moonrise Kingdom, or travelling from room to room in The Grand Budapest Hotel without the great scores of Alexandre Desplat charging your escapade. His collaboration with the iconic American filmmaker Wes Anderson has become one of the greatest contemporary cinematic relationships, with Desplat an extra artistic outlet for the director to utilise.
It’s perhaps one of the most organic creative unions in filmmaking, a symbiotic relationship that helps to elevate the artistic prowess of both individuals. Having worked together on five feature films including, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Isle of Dogs and the upcoming French Dispatch, Alexandre Desplat has helped to define the contemporary work of Wes Anderson, whilst the filmmaker has elevated Desplat to new creative heights.
Discussing their artistic collaboration in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter during the promotion of Isle of Dogs, Desplat commented, “It’s a very active collaboration when we’re together in my studio, it goes very fast”. Continuing, he noted, “I react very fast to his ideas, I suggest things, he already has a sense of what type of orchestration he would like to have, so I grab ideas. I think this very strong, organic collaboration is special for him and for me too because it’s a real ping-pong game for many hours”.
Desplat also discusses how Anderson’s artistic form helps to inspire him as a conductor, commenting, “If you look at his movies you can see how detailed and specific every single thing which is in the frame is chosen, placed, how the camera moves to the millimetre…The music has to be as precise, giving a sense of the arc of the film and playing with the characters which is what I like to do anyway”.
The pinnacle of such collaboration was seen in 2014 and the eighth film of Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel, in which Alexandre Desplat helped to articulate the fall of the idealised world of the hotel and its colourful characters. Matching Wes Anderson’s great vision with his own musical complexity, Desplat imbued a sense of mystery that permeated into carpets of the hotel itself, creating a delightful crime caper with a playful staccato score.
To the sprawling, zany story coloured with a bright, saturated colour palette, Desplat splashes spirit with a charming, exuberant soundtrack, that in itself, becomes inextricably tied to the film. Crafting a tangible texture that adds to the very identity of Anderson’s film, Desplat’s soundtrack is light, charming and effervescent, creating this mood with the snappy plucked sounds of the zither and cimbalom. Having moved from the quiet, subtle score of 2013s Philomena, to the strong military march of The Monuments Men before his work on The Great Budapest Hotel, his collaboration with Wes Anderson in 2014 truly demonstrates the composer’s versatility.
So impressive was the score for the film that Alexandre Desplat won the award for Original Score at the 87th Academy Awards for his work, announcing during his acceptance speech, “Wes, you’re a genius”. Though, perhaps it should be Wes Anderson thanking Alexandre Desplat, as, without the sweet harmonies of the composer, the crumbling facade of The Grand Budapest Hotel, or the frenetic home of Fantastic Mr Fox may not have been half as memorable.