Asteroid City - the meaning of the film, and how to watch a Wes Anderson movie

The year 2023 saw the release of Asteroid City, a Wes Anderson film that continues a certain trend of "Confessions of Love" genre art. First it was "The French Herald" where Anderson talked about his love for periodicals, and in "Asteroid City" the maestro confesses his love for theatre and film. Both films are similar, though "The City" is less overstuffed and more watchable.

Their perhaps main similarity is that the plot is not as important here as the visuals. In essence, Anderson's films are a set of pictures, a certain atmosphere, creating a visual sense, but not a connected narrative that can be easily retold. Well, that is, you should not expect from a Wes Anderson film that there will be a clear storyline, as, for example, in the film "Barbie", where although there is allegorical, but the plot is primary. No, this is a different kind of film. Art house, if you like.

But let's get to the bottom of what we have going on here, shall we?

There are 4 storylines that are constantly alternating:
  1. The writer who's writing the play Asteroid City.
  2. The play "Asteroid City."
  3. The film "Asteroid City," based on the play
  4. A programme about the film Asteroid City.
To give us a better idea that the case is in different time layers, the transfer is black and white, the film is colour, and the two lines have different aspect ratios in the video.

It's a kind of "Show within a show." And each act is separated by a graphic poster.

The main plot of the film, around which the movement takes place: in a small and strange town children arrive for the awarding of young astronomers. But during the festival, aliens descend on the town and take away an asteroid, after which the town is quarantined. During the quarantine all the characters have their own stories, until the aliens return and give the asteroid back, after which the newfound friends and just neighbours leave the town.
That's it in a nutshell. Now let's decipher each story individually.

Реальность Астероид-сити

The city here is actually one of the main characters, too. It is set in a retro-futuristic version of the 1950s, and it is unclear where exactly it is - it looks like Arizona, but it's either Nevada or California. (The whole thing was filmed in Paris in general). The characters themselves aren't too sure where they are.

This is a fictional reality with elements of different eras. Near the city there are nuclear bomb tests, the meaning of which we do not know (although, it's the 50s, we can guess), and the city itself appeared only thanks to a fallen asteroid.

The city is bright, stylish, as if it were a toy - this is Wes Anderson's visual language, all these windows, machines, cars. It is for their sake that you should watch such films, analyse the colour solutions and composition that the creator builds. This is his "code".
Including the author's code includes the characters. Anderson's peculiarity is that his films are always played by the same actors. So here we have again Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody. But they're not only Wes Anderson's characters, they're also characters in the play, which adds to the conflict between the author and his characters. Their relationships, their complexities.

In fact, every actor in real life here has two characters - an actor and a character. Like Scarlett Johansson - there's the actress Mercedes in bb who plays the character Midge in colour.
The funniest role, in my opinion, is Margot Robbie's, because she was just cut out of the film in the end and put in another performance, which is why her mother died in the film.

The easiest to follow is the love line between the military photojournalist Odie and the actress Midge, there it is generally clear. The love line between the young teacher and Montana is not very visible, but in general, it is also guessable.

Note that the actors seem to "overplay", exaggerate, dramatise, speak too clearly, round their eyes too much. This is also "so intended", because, firstly, such play is in the Wes Anderson code, and secondly, they do not hide the fact that they are actors, and they play roles.

For example, when Midge sees Odie burn himself and shouts: "You really did it", it's actually Mercedes screaming because the actor really did burn himself.
Children are the ones you should look at most closely. They are the ones Wes Anderson does best, he understands the world of a child very clearly, and it is evident from "Kingdom of the Full Moon". So the girls-not princesses, the game of complicated surnames, the girl who sees only aliens in each card - all these are the main and most interesting characters of the narrative.
And the world of Wes Anderson itself - it's like a childish, caramelised, fairy-tale world.
Moral of the film: There are many events in life that we can't explain, and it's important not to look for meaning in them, but to just keep moving forward. Because "you don't wake up until you fall asleep".
In my opinion, this film is less colourful than The French Dispatch, but more connected and understandable. And if you watch it simply as an ode to the love of storytelling, noting the visual solutions, you can get a lot of pleasure. And not to look for a particularly important meaning in those events that we cannot understand.

What about "Asteroid City"? Did you get the message? Did you get all four lines?