This weekend the Grand Hotel in Oslo finally gets a starring role in a movie. It’s the first Norwegian contribution in that underrated genre: Hotel films. Here are five other favorites.
“All good hotels make people do things they would not necessarily do at home,” the American hotelier Andre Balazs once said. What an intriguing thought. It seems many filmmakers agree, as one more cleverly than the other have explored what really happens to human beings when we check into a hotel. There have been few Norwegian contributions to this genre (sadly, we tend not to make genre films in Norway), but this Friday director Arild Fröhlich takes us on a tour of one of Oslos most distinguished hotels, The Grand.
The author Axel Farstad checks into the hotel after being diagnosed with cirrhosis and is told he has only a few months to live if he continues to drink. He does, of course, in the only place where he can concentrate, that odd looking Tower suite at the Grand. In the lobby area, he meets a peculiar little boy with Tourette’s. the boy’s mother is Swedish and works at the reception. So, here we have the central characters laid out: The quirky writer, the strange boy and the single mother. Add a nice chef and you know more or less what you’re in for. Still, it’s nice to see a hotel which is a cultural institution in Norway – hangout of Ibsen and Munch – play the lead role in a movie. Fröhlich shows us all the nice nooks and corners of the Grand, from the narrow Tower suite to the legendary Grand Café, the Artesia Spa and not least Palmen restaurant, one of my favorite places in Oslo. The hotel is undergoing refurbishment this year, let’s hope they don’t do away with all that historic elegance.
Here are five of my favorite films which, like Grand Hotel, take place in hotels that you can still check into:
Copperville Mountain Lodge in Årø, Sweden
Ruben Östlunds family drama, which won the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard program in Cannes two years ago, takes place in the village of Les Arcs in the French Alps. In reality, the interior scenes were filmed at Copperhill Mountain Lodge in Åre in the middle of Sweden. The film’s production designer, Josefin Åsberg, explained that the whole hotel feels like a big studio, but with a genuine hotel atmosphere, large, airy rooms and plenty of light. Force Majeure shows us all the drama of a family vacation through a variety of harrowing and funny scenes, with a spectacular avalanche as a starting point. The roles we are given as mom and dad, husband and wife are brilliantly examined in this resort movie.
The Beverly Wilshire Hotel
Garry Marshall takes us on a tour of this luxury hotel in a way that feels completely natural. Even the elevators get their bit of attention as prostitute Vivian sways into the lobby in those thigh high boots with businessman Edward in tow. The tour continues through the Penthouse Suite, on a beautiful princess balcony, in a huge hot tub and a beautiful banquet room (every elegant hotel should have one). Even the bar and pool area is used as a backdrop in this charming Cinderella story from Rodeo Drive. The Beverly Wilshire delivers luxury at all levels to this day. And who knows, maybe they still teach the Eliza Doolittles of our time to use the right silverware.
The Mountain Lake Lodge
Life must have been pretty peaceful at this country hotel in Virginia before Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey rolled in with their film his crew to create one of history’s most successful dance films. In my book, it is also one of the best resort films ever made, not least because it portrays the kind of resort many of us have grown up with, featuring a breakfast buffet, croquet on the lawn, accommodation in wooden cottages and local evening entertainment. Today you can still participate in a variety of leisure activities, though dance lessons are not part of the program. The hotel clearly feels proud about it’s presence in the film (and rightly should) and has put of signposts to show visitors where essential scenes in the movie where made.
The Waldhaus Flims
Italian director Paolo Sorrentino and his crew spent six weeks at this hotel complex in the Swiss Alps during the filming of Youth. The film follows two best friends (Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel) on a recreational holiday in what is today Switzerland’s largest resort, with a history stretching back to 1877. The old buildings have received a number of new additions, including the spa facility pictured here. Sorrentino has a unique way of creating truly beautiful moments on film which seem oddly original, often because theres an element of peculiarity to them as well. Youth is no exception, but Sorrentino also makes time for spa treatments, thermal baths, buffet breakfasts and walks in the stunningly beautiful landscape that surrounds the hotel.
Lost in Translation
Park Hyatt Tokyo
This is perhaps the finest movie ever made about a real hotel. It shows us what a strange dream state a hotel can transfer us to, where no one knows who you are and where you are free to act out all your eccentricities, regardless of the consequences. But it also shows us how a hotel reinforces our feeling of solitude. Sofia Coppola stayed at the Park Hyatt when she promoted her first film The Virgin Suicides in Japan, and came to like the hotel. (It’s clear that Coppola is fond of hotels, as her movie Somewhere also takes place in one, The Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles). Coppola had to work hard to get permission to shoot at the five star establishment and was forced to work in the middle of the night so as not to disturb the other guests. A stay here doesn’t come cheap, but you don’t have to check in to experience the hotel. Take the elevator to the top floors and eat at the New York Grill or enjoy the view from the bar.