Many of the best filmmakers compose their movies in such a way that every frame could conceivably be a painting. Anderson takes this principle to a literal extreme. In fact, his films resemble tangible art to such a degree that many artists have taken to recreating his shots in actual painting form. Because of the visually striking images in his films, he’s often pigeonholed as a largely visual director, but his films have an unmistakable tone to them, too, which aids him in telling engaging, thought-provoking stories. I’ve become particularly fond of a recent internet trend in which content creators attempt to alter existing films by transferring onto them Anderson’s visual and tonal style. For example, here are “his” versions of X-Men, A Clockwork Orange, and The VVitch. Although there is undoubtedly more to Anderson’s films than surface-level visual offerings, his distinct color palettes and shot composition are what drew me to him in the first place, so I’d like to primarily discuss this aspect of his work.
My mother introduced me to Anderson’s films about ten years ago. Even as a young(er) lad, I could walk through the living room and ascertain in a matter of seconds whenever she was watching a Wes Anderson movie due to his unique visual style. After many successive living-room walkthroughs, I quickly took a liking to it. I tend to value vibrant, intricate images in my film watching, and the experience of watching a Wes Anderson movie is the very definition of a visual treat. The rich color palettes that he employs in his movies are so noticeable, inspiring, and popular that there are entire webpages dedicated to those who wish to duplicate his color schemes in their own artwork. Sometimes he uses just a few splashes of color, such as here, and other times an avalanche of it, such as here and here. I also enjoy Anderson’s fluid, often horizontal tracking shots, represented well by this TV spot and the opening of Moonrise Kingdom. In addition, he’s a master of maintaining visual symmetry within the frame, as seen in this shot from Fantastic Mr. Fox and this shot from The Grand Budapest Hotel. I think such preservation of symmetry imparts a balanced, comforting feel of equilibrium in his movies, even if the characters are in flux at the moment the frame passes. Anderson also has a penchant for framing shots within visible, interior frames, particularly in The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Movies aren’t solely intended to make you cry or make your heart drop out of your chest. Although some films do this more often than Anderson’s, his always provide viewers with a photographic feast. Because of this defining feature, they function as a visual retreat from a dark and gritty world.
If you liked some of the stills that I linked above, here’s a gallery of some of Anderson’s most stunning shots: 51 Wes Anderson Shots.