Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Vic chapter.

When I logged onto Netflix during the last week of September, I was shocked to see a title card for a short film called Poison that seemed to mimick one of my favourite director’s style — and I thought there was an imposter.

Wes Anderson is known for his easily identifiable pastel yellow palette and stylized center-frame shots in his films, with most viewers being able to tell it’s his film just by a single frame shot. “Now we’re just copying him outright!” I shouted internally. I clicked angrily on the pop-up and was filled with a cascading flow of emotions. Anger. Confusion. Surprise. Then, joy. They came from the maestro himself, Anderson had released new media! 

As a Wes Anderson fanatic who has seen twelve of his films, there is a pastel-coded piece of my heart that goes out to this creator and visionaire. As soon as the four shorts were released I binged them all. 

So, what about these shorts! 

I won’t give any explicit spoilers, but I will be taking a closer look at what Anderson achieves through these films. Even as individual films (summary), there are some themes that stylistically tie the shorts together as a collection.

Three of the four shorts have a runtime at about seventeen minutes (The Swan, The Rat Catcher and Poison), with The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar being the longest at about thirty-seven minutes. The beauty of these films is that they don’t require you to watch them in order of release, as they are standalone shorts. 

The dynamic sets revolving around the actors give these shorts the feel of a play or some sort of theatrical show. Instead of cutting together isolated sets, the production team moves backdrops and other large set pieces around the cast in an unpredictable way. (The box trick with Cumberbatch was my favourite new technique used).

Consistent with the theme of a play, the cast for all these shorts is incredibly small, with each of the shorts swapping to use different members of the larger ensemble. Big names hit the screen via shorts such as famous actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Ben Kingsley. Anderson also seems to prioritize a male-donimated cast as per usual…

In each of these shorts, there are times when a character, Roald Dahl, (played by Ralph Fiennes) is woven into the story, despite not being able to interact with the other characters. I recommend searching up “Roald Dahl’s writing hut” on your search engine of choice to see a comparison to what it actually looks like. 

These shorts embrace the story-within-a-story structure, one of my personal favourite tactics. This is accentuated by Dahl’s presence, and is employed in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar with the medical journal that has a ‘Russian doll’ inspired structure. 

Most characters either start/end their lines by saying ‘I said’ or describe what other characters will say using ‘he/she/they said’ tags, and speak other character’s dialogue themselves. By blurring the lines between the narrator and supporting characters, an intriguing narrative perspective is created, fresh and anew. 

There is no need to watch these films in order, as the stories’ creator connects them all. Famous children book novelist Roald Dahl is the author (not of the screenplays) but of the original stories. If the name Dahl sounds familiar you might remember some of his most famous books from childhood as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, (with Wonka hitting theatres later this fall) Matilda, (which has run on New York’s Broadway stage for several years where I had the pleasure of seeing it live in 2016) or The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) which was also adapted to a full length film in 2016. 

Fun fact for those who’ve seen Wes Anderson’s film Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) — this is actually an adaptation of another one of Dahl’s stories that was originally published in 1970. 

There is definitely more that Anderson has achieved through these films than can be said here. IMO it’s definitely worth checking out, not only to analyze, but to inspire yourself to see the world differently, and maybe even ask yourself “what makes how you perceive the world special?”

Ashley Ciambrelli is the Senior Editor for the Her Campus Chapter at the University of Victoria. She is in charge of ensuring a high quality of professional writing for the writers that are on her team. She manages the editing team, ensuring they meet Her Campus standards and stay on schedule. Alongside overseeing the editing team, she also loves writing articles herself. Ashley is currently in her third year at the University of Victoria where she is majoring in writing and minoring in journalism and publishing. Ashley has been with Her Campus since the fall of 2022, where she began with writing articles. Later that year, her passion for writing led her to take on a more prominent role within the editing team. In her free time, Ashley enjoys making tea and watching any 2000s teen drama. She casually records vocals for local singers on the side, and is currently working on releasing some music of her own. She is a foster mom with the BC SPCA, and has a strong love for all fluffy creatures — especially bunnies. She loves DSLR photography and hopes to combine her passion for writing with visual media sometime in the future.