Opinion: Wes Anderson’s week of short films

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Wes Anderson surprised his fans with a four-part collection of short films which were released to Netflix last week. The films were inspired by four different short stories written by Roald Dahl.

Roald Dahl books. Photo courtesy of Flicker

With creativity and imagination, Anderson pays tribute to Dahl’s talent without shying away from his controversial career. 

In his notorious 2009 “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” Anderson brought one of Dahl’s stories to life in a charismatic, star-studded, stop-motion film. A decade and a half later, he’s finally bringing more of Dahl’s stories to the screen.

The short films lack the A-list actors that Anderson typically casts in his films such as the recurring Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson. Anderson’s reasoning for this is that he wanted the cast for the shorts to be “made up entirely of British actors,” since Dahl was British.

These films resemble a stage play, with rolling sets and narrators standing on the sidelines. In an interview for the New York Times, Anderson discussed his choice of theatrical style.

“I like the authenticity that a theatrical approach can bring. It’s a way to tell the story where there’s a little sliver of the documentary in it, even though most of what we’re doing is the exact opposite of a documentary.”

We saw this theatrical style in 2021’s “French Dispatch.” Building onto that style, in 2023’s “Asteroid City,” the main story is the stage play, but there is an entirely separate storyline with the cast and crew of the play. This theatrical style, with great cinematography, is articulated very specifically like a perfectionist putting on a play.

With the actors doubling as narrators and characters, these films seem like audiobooks with aesthetic imagery. While having the characters narrating the story to us is enjoyable, it starts to become repetitive and annoying after a certain point. 

Anderson’s reasoning for the characters narrating the story was that he wanted the film to feel the same as Dahl’s stories, which is specifically why he incorporated Dahl as one of the narrators.

“The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar” released on Netflix on Sept. 1. Photo courtesy of Netflix

“When you read Dahl as a child, you feel like he’s telling you things another adult wouldn’t,” Anderson said in the same interview for the New York Times.  

While working on “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” Anderson got to stay at Roald Dahl’s ‘Hut’ for some time. He felt fascinated with Dahl after staying there, which is why he decided to turn Dahl into a character. He recreated the hut as Dahl’s house in the short films. 

Despite lacking certain qualities, Anderson puts an immense amount of energy into these shorts, resulting in four honest, comedic and light-hearted stories.

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Alyssa White
Staff Writer | + posts