Wes Anderson: Ironic and Idealized America (Pt. 1)

Flying the Betsy Ross flag in Anderson's America

Flying the Betsy Ross flag in Anderson’s America

Over the past century, theorists have combatted to-and-fro about film as an art form. Is film meant to capture reality? Or is film meant to formulate a new reality for its audiences to consume? I find myself leaning toward the formative approach; if I’m going to watch a film, I want to escape. I want to visit worlds familiar to my own, relatable, but different to the point of getting lost in the intricacies of a narrative or the aesthetics of cinematography. Usually you’ll find me in the distant past, searching for another Bette Davis vehicle or George Cukor film… but occasionally, I’ll dabble in contemporary films, especially if they meet the aforementioned requirements.

Wes Anderson and I have an interesting past… with many thanks to my sister, Katie. I always thought my sister had the strangest taste in films. She liked foreign films; I hated subtitles. She liked dry humour; I liked screwball. She liked the Royal Tenenbaums… I was too young to watch it. As I grew older, our tastes began to overlap. And then, finally, I was able to watch a Wes Anderson film with her. The Royal Tenenbaums changed my perspective of contemporary film forever.  Needless to say, Anderson’s film, to me, is the definition of art and beauty.

Last night, I watched Wes Anderson’s latest film, Moonrise Kingdom, and I thought I would give an analysis of his cinematic techniques (and tomorrow a glance at his narrative content). Anderson is considered to be an auteur, as his trademarks are evident to audiences and he is involved in all aspects of filmmaking (writing, directing, producing). The examples given below can be seen in the majority of his films.


Anyone who identifies as a perfectionist or suffers from OCD will appreciate this element of Anderson’s style. Almost every shot has the illusion of symmetry. The shots are composed as though the world around his characters is consciously placed on a grid; humans are overly aware of their composition in relation to objects and places surrounding them.

Sam's symmetrical artwork in Moonrise Kingdom

Sam’s symmetrical artwork in Moonrise Kingdom

Symmetry in Set Design (and a shirtless Bill Murray).

Symmetry in Set Design (and a shirtless Bill Murray).

Emphasis of Colour

I found this image on tumblr. and I thought I would share it.


From set design to costuming, Anderson makes intentional decisions to create a world based on specific colours. This technique combined with symmetrical shots creates an idealistic picturesque film.

The corn’s a-plenty.


Even the sky suits the palette.

Nostalgic Design

From houses frozen in time to period pieces (such as Moonrise Kingdom), he never fails to incorporate elements of nostalgia. For a classic film junkie, this is the pinnacle of Anderson’s style. The detail he requires allows tiny elements to become laden with meaning.

Suzy's sixties dress.

Suzy’s sixties dress.

Retro stolen record player.

These are only three of the many stylistic conventions of Wes Anderson’s films. What else can you name? Tomorrow I will be focusing on the irony of Wes Anderson film narratives and combining it with stylistic elements. In the meantime, what is your favourite Anderson production? Or what is your favourite aspect of his style?


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