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Written by Shirley Marina
Zero is the main character in the movie at every age. We see him at three ages - first as a teen immigrant, second as a young man and lastly as a lonely old hotel owner. Zero has no family and as a young boy was forced to make it on his own, talking his way into a job as a try-out lobby boy. His bluster got him past everyone but Gustave. He doesn't dwell on this but never loses sight of it either as evidenced by his bringing it up during the only real argument he and Gustave ever have. As a young man, in the second phase of his life that we see him in, Zero proves himself a true friend. He is loyal to Gustave, courageous in standing up for what he believes is right, and a very quick study. He is an adept go-between and since there is a war on during this time frame his skills would also have been useful if utilized as a spy. Zero is deeply in love with Agatha and the relationship is the biggest influence on his life; he remains devoted to her even in old age. As an old man he is clearly lonely as the people whom matter to him are long dead and his hotel is very quiet. His memories are the reason for and the subject of the movie.
Gustave is a concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel; but not just "a" concierge. Gustave is the gold standard of concierges, renowned, remembered fondly, the part of the vacation that works seamlessly. He is the type of person who does everything so effortlessly that you don't notice him doing it. He takes pride in the role which is why he wants to make sure that Zero learns from him and doesn't cast shadow on the concierge reputation with youthful ineptitude. His propensity for sleeping with elderly women hides his probable homosexuality and although never confirmed it is insinuated throughout. It is also denied by himself as he fights to prove his manliness whilst in jail. Gustave knows that one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar, winning fellow inmates over with generosity, but despite his suave and proper air he is actually a scrapper and fights easily. He has been kind to Madame D and made her genuinely happy.
Ultimately proven to be the mysterious unknown owner of the hotel, Madame D is also a benefactor, sexual partner and best friend of Gustave whom she loves and who has made her happier than her greedy family ever have done. She is very rich. She seems to have a premonition about her own murder and also no illlusions about her family which is why she makes sure there is a copy of her second will.
Agatha is a baker at Zero's favorite bakery. She is the love of his life. Agatha is a pretty spunky young woman who is athletic and brace - and lucky, since she manages to fall out of the hotel window right above the truck she parked earlier. She trusts Zero deeply very early on in their relationship. Despite love, marriage and motherhood, Agatha's story is ultimately a tragedy as she dies after childbirth along with her infant child.
Serge is shifty and it's at first hard to decide whether or not he is a good or a bad character in the story. His behavior is shady at best and he seems to be engaged in subterfuge; despite seeming to reach out to Gustave at their first meeting he doesn't elaborate on what he wanted to talk to him about and curiously goes into hiding after the reading of the will. To his credit he will not give false testimony that implicates Gustave in his employer's murder. Serge's main function in the story is to make sure that Madame D's wishes are adhered to and her murderers brought to justice, but he also highlights the murderousness of the family as he ends up a victim of their hired hitman.
Clothilde is the loyal and straightforward maid of Madame D and is not a person who can lie and hide things; essentially a supporter of Serge she unwittingly gives his escape away by telling Dmitri he has gone into hiding.
Serge's sister is brave and keeps his whereabouts hidden by pretending that she hasn't heard from him even though she has. For her silence she is murdered by the family Gorman and staged particularly brutally with her head in a laundry basket and her body left in the middle of the room.
Cold, calculating, sociopathic Dmitri is the son of Madame D and also the engineer of her murder and of the plot to frame Gustave for it. He literally has no conscience. Driven. Y money and greed, his mother's worth to him is. Or as a person but as a bank roller and he is eager to get his hands on everything she owns. He doesn't appreciate her efforts to thwart him even from beyond the grave. He is the person behind multiple orders of the characters in the story but not the hands that actually carried them out.
Inspector Henckelsnis a good detective, only on the side of what is right. This is shown when he begins to treat Gustave as a suspect when the evidence seems to point to his guilt but also with his willingness to believe Zero and Gustave when they tell him what has really gone on. He is a decent man. He came to the hotel with his parents as a child and remembers the concierge, again highlighting the positive force that Gustave has always been. Gustave also remembers him. Henckels is a decent man who helps Zero by turning a blind eye to his lack of documentation.
The Author is a traveler and a citizen of the world type. He is the catalyst for the telling of Zero's story both to the audience and ultimately to the world in the form of the book he writes and that the girl in the last shot of the movie is shown to be reading. He seems an inquisitive type and a person who gets to know people for their stories only to lose touch with them again moments later. He is passing through the rundown city on his way to South Africa, in much the same way he passes through people's lives on his way out of them.
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