by Jerry ElengicalJul 20, 2021
It is perhaps the auteur’s unbound love for trains, and to leave his visual signature, the "Wes Anderson stamp", in everything he stages that lead to this fateful collaboration of creatives. The global hospitality brand Belmond, offering the best in luxury travel, commissioned the prolific director to reimagine its Cygnus carriage on the British Pullman, one of Belmond’s uber-affluent signature trains. What resulted was a marriage not just of aesthetic sensibility, but of a shared responsibility towards heritage and travel, particularly train travel: both things dear to Anderson, and both somewhat on the verge of oblivion, being replaced by cheaper, faster, more current alternatives. As such, the redesign project and avenue holds an especially elevated significance in a post COVID age, wherein travel is a distant memory for a lot of people.
“I love trains!”, stated director and designer of the carriage, Wes Anderson, mirroring perhaps his excitement from staging some of his most aesthetically charged-up scenes in trains: particularly in The Darjeeling Limited. “I have often had the chance to invent train compartments and carriages in my movies - so I was immediately pleased to say ‘yes' to this real life opportunity, and very eager to make something new while also participating in the process of preservation which accompanies all the classic Belmond train projects,” continues Anderson on the collaboration, through an official release. Looking back, even the beautifully shot crimson carriage scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel comes to mind. “They are keeping something special alive; igniting this endangered species of travel into a new golden era.”
Named after the Greek god of balance, often manifested in a swan, the conceptual soul and narrative of this intervention rests in trying to balance the historical with the modern, the sense of preservation with a desire for iconicity. Working on the train’s interiors’ existing art deco inspired design, Anderson introduces his signature touch in the interiors of the train carriage, aligning with the art nouveau style. The reimagined carriage is nearly instantly recognisable as a Wes Anderson production; complete with symmetrical lines and an overbearing colour palette, arranged to visually please to the last meticulous degree, the most recent manifestation of this phenomenon being The French Dispatch.
Finding its origins in the 1950s, the coaches in the British Pullman train came to be recognised as the near pinnacle of craftsmanship and bespoke design, and Anderson’s visualisation takes particular care to incorporate that craftsmanship and attention to detail that is signatory of the hospitality design behemoth. The fabrics covering the seats are bathed in a jade green, bearing intricate, symmetrical patterns, and creating a calming, confident aura. Ornamentations, including fixtures, storage racks above the seating, ceiling patterns, and accessories are in a solid gold or silver, lending just a smidge of the bling associated with luxury travel, yet finding richness in true tones. Coupled with the extensive wooden marquetry over all surfaces of the carriage enclosure, the green is a curious interior design choice, lending the carriage a decidedly natural feel. A flourish of pink flushes the ceiling of the coach to contrast with the tapestry.
The physical form of the swan too evolves into a motif used in Anderson’s reworking of the carriage, both directly and in abstraction. The wooden marquetry bears the swan insignia in rhythmic repetition within its intricately done patterns, while the seating area’s ceiling is meticulously lined with a reflective silver leaf to give the impression of a water body. The swan-shaped champagne coolers complete the moody illusion as a rather literal interpretation.
The British Pullman, complete with the Anderson-designed carriage, offers extensive, luxurious day tours from London’s Victoria Station, and offers the ‘Pullman Dining by Wes Anderson’ experience starting at £400 a piece, scaling up to an entire coupé. Until the occurrence of a Wes Anderson theme park for us aficionados, this is the closest we may get to inhabiting the perfectly doctored, albeit dream-like world of a Wes Anderson film.